For Joseph Doran, retirement at 86 years old took a rather unexpected turn when he found himself residing in a homeless shelter in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He never imagined his golden years taking this grim route. Having spent his life in service and hard work, the aftermath of medical complications and subsequent hospitalization led him into homelessness.
Joseph isn’t alone in his predicament. Jesse Wegenast from the Sparrow Community Care Society revealed, “The number of older homeless adults, not just in Abbotsford, but across our province, is at an all-time high.” The society runs a unique shelter dedicated exclusively to the elderly homeless – the first of its kind in British Columbia.
Wegenast highlights that the existence of such a shelter offers a beacon of hope to those navigating the rough tides of life. He laments about its packed state, having to turn people away every day, despite the 20-bed capacity. A large portion of their guests are pensioners in their late 70s and 80s.
Located in the Central Heights Church, this homeless shelter, converted from an all-purpose room, has been home to 67-year-old Tiina-Mai Sastok, a former teacher and counselor, for about 15 months. Brent Taylor, another resident, landed here two years ago after a workplace accident triggered a chain of misfortunes. He claims to be experiencing a life drastically different from what he was accustomed to.
Patrick Gallagher, still working part-time, found himself at this shelter following the dissolution of his marriage. The escalating rental prices add to his uncertainty of ever affording his own accommodation.
According to Wegenast, this shelter frequently houses fixed-income seniors who, after losing a spouse or needing to relocate, find themselves unable to afford housing due to the skyrocketing real estate prices. “As long as the housing crisis remains unresolved, we’ll continue to witness elderly individuals falling into homelessness”, he opines. He fears that these makeshift homes may end up as mere warehouses for the senior citizens, without addressing their real needs. He adds, “We simply can’t shelter our way out of a housing crisis.”
Despite the harsh realities, Doran nurtures the dream of owning his own little house one day. However, after a year at the shelter, his dream seems evermore distant.