December 20, 2022 Ralph’s Story
Ralph pushed his shopping cart across the snow-filled street. It was everything he had inside for him to make it to the other side. He didn’t have a destination, he only needed to keep moving. Keep his circulation going.
It was as cold as he could remember it being in Kelowna. He left Calgary two years before looking for warmer temperatures and a break from the addiction that plagued him all his adult life. At least he escaped the cold, he thought.
But the cold in Kelowna was damp, it pierced right through his body. The cold sapped the energy from his soul.
And he had nowhere to go.
He managed to find a basement suite when he got to the Okanagan back at the beginning of the pandemic. He left Calgary, hitching rides across the mountainous roads. He felt happy that he made it to Kelowna and he was looking forward to a new life.
But the house he was living in was sold and the new owners told him to leave, they were renovating and didn’t want any renters.
So back to the streets he went.
He managed to find a job working in an orchard for the summer. The problem was he also found the drugs which have held him down much of his life.
It didn’t seem to matter where he went, crack, meth and heroin seemed to follow him. He couldn’t stay away.
It all started when his sister died as a teenager.
She “fell” from a cliff above the Elbow river and they found her body floating miles down the river. Her friend Larry claimed it was an accident. Somehow Ralph didn’t believe him. He knew there was something wrong with Larry Mullen and suspected that he helped his sister fall far more than helped try to save her.
But the police didn’t listen to him and Larry was very convincing.
Now, Larry lived on some fancy estate outside Calgary. Meanwhile, Ralph left Calgary and existed on the streets of Kelowna. It was an existence, not a life…
He was so devastated by the loss of his sister he went into a deep depression. It began with a joint from a friend to dull the pain. He managed to keep in control until he got his first job up north. That’s when he started using cocaine working on the oil patch as a nineteen-year-old kid. Pot was illegal and they tested for it, so it stayed in your system for up to thirty days. Cocaine on the other hand was gone in days.
Everything felt under control in those days… Until it wasn’t.
Now the last thirty years were a blur of addiction and homelessness. He spent some time in jail in Calgary for theft and vagrancy. Eventually, he got some help and got clean.
But it didn’t last.
So when he got the two thousand dollars from the federal government back in 2020 he took the opportunity and got out of town. He figured if he was away from all the bad influences in his life he could start over. Kelowna seemed like the best place to go.
But that didn’t work either.
Now Ralph pushed his cart through the blowing snow. Looking for a place to hide. A place to get warm. He was also looking for his next fix.
The cold sucked at his body and he could only think of his next step. His next place to be. He found the entrance to a closed shop and he huddled in close to the wall. He grabbed his snow-covered blanket and wrapped it around himself as he crawled behind his cart and sat sheltered from the storm.
He dreamed of going back to the day his sister died. He dreamed of seeing her face again. He dreamed of revenge…
Meanwhile, he slept in the doorway, cold and alone. Invisible to the world around him. People scurried by and ignored the homeless and the less fortunate. People were more concerned with themselves and what to get their family for Christmas than they were with the lost and forgotten.
And Ralph slept alone in the streets, snow billowing around him. Only his dreams to keep him company.
There are far too many homeless people suffering on the streets of one of the wealthiest cities in the country. Affordable housing and proper programs for the mentally ill and addicted are sorely lacking. It is time to find a way to give those that need it a hand up, not a handout.
At this time of year, it is time for all of us to find some small way to help those less fortunate than ourselves. But more than that it is time for our society and our governments to change the focus from profits to people…