A paycheque away from the street

District 69 forum on homelessness features stories from those who know

Sergeant Malcolm Cox who has been a Vancouver Police officer for 33 years — including more than half of that working with homelessness in the downtown east side — spoke about the issue at Thursday’s forum. Qualicum Beach nurse Diana Lamonte spoke of her recent experience with homelessness.

Sergeant Malcolm Cox who has been a Vancouver Police officer for 33 years — including more than half of that working with homelessness in the downtown east side — spoke about the issue at Thursday’s forum. Qualicum Beach nurse Diana Lamonte spoke of her recent experience with homelessness.

Two homelessness forums in Parksville and Qualicum Beach Thursday were filled to capacity with around 60 people at each.

As panel member Diana Lamonte explained it’s not just the issue of “absolute” homelessness, but a lot of people are one or two paychecks away. Lamonte, a licensed practical nurse, found herself living in a friend’s RV recently, after moving to Qualicum Beach and cashing in her pension. She was working part-time but not making enough to cover the rent and unable to travel to pick up other work.

“I had an image in my mind of an old lady with a shopping cart sleeping in doorways,” she said, saying it scared her to the point that she found herself writing a list of reasons for and against suicide — and the ‘for’ list was much longer. She said the scariest part was how calm and logical she felt at the time, but when she was at her worst, she did find help through the SOS (Society of Organized Services) and is back in a more stable situation, including moving into Kiwanis Place.

She said the two biggest issues for people at risk of homelessness in District 69 are the lack of affordable housing and reliable public transit.

Lamonte was speaking at the morning session in Qualicum Beach, while a second, similar forum was held in Parksville in the evening, both organized by the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness.