Part of the camp in the Carmi area where a couple of the approximate 28 families is forced to live because they cannot find an affordable home in Penticton.                                Mark Brett/Western News

Part of the camp in the Carmi area where a couple of the approximate 28 families is forced to live because they cannot find an affordable home in Penticton. Mark Brett/Western News

A B.C. family forced to live in the bush

A family forced into living in the hills above Penticton doesn’t know where to go

If you drive far enough east, out of Penticton, and find the right forestry road, you might find a family.

The age of that family depends on whom you meet. Ages range from two months old to upward of 60 years, able-bodied and disabled alike.

Jay said he and his family have lived up there since the end of May, and like many others living in the Carmi hills, they’re victims of an out-of-control rental market in Penticton. Jay is not his real name, as he has asked to remain anonymous, having several friends he hasn’t told about his living situation.

Related: Super 8 getting more than social housing

But Jay said about 28 families in total live in a 250-square-kilometre forested area east of Penticton, some of whom dig deep into forestry roads with hopes of keeping their location safe and hidden.

Jay’s campsite is well out of town, but he said it is still one of the easier ones to find. It is home to five family members in total, four of whom are on disability pensions, including one young man with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects motor function.

Their story could sound familiar to any number of people: living in a Penticton apartment building, the family was handed an eviction notice for renovations in February, and despite having a few months to find a new place to live, nothing within the family’s price range came up.

A man, who asked that his real name not be used, with his sick dog live in the Carmi area in the bush because they cannot find a place to live. He was told by one landlord to re-apply when his dog is dead. (Mark Brett/Western News)

It wasn’t the family’s first time being evicted.

Since moving into the Carmi hills, the family has had to move around every two weeks — more than 14 days is considered squatting, and the family was recently handed a notice to pack up or face a $1,000 fine.

Related: Moving forward from Highland Motel fire

Jay said he goes down every day or every second day to find a place to live, but comes up with nothing affordable or nothing at all. Anything that he can find within their price range is taken up in an instant. He said they stop at the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society, which is involved in social housing projects in Penticton and offers a list of spaces up for rent. A list he provided to the Western News had spaces ranging from $600 to $1,350 for a one-bedroom unit.

“There’s nothing out there to rent reasonable for anybody. We put our name in for low-income housing, and that was five years ago, but … there’s nothing,” Jay said.

“We’re so desperate for a house, but we don’t know where to find one. And we don’t know where to go, and a lot of motels won’t do winter rentals. We already checked.”

A sweet, attention-loving dog greets newcomers to their campsite with friendly sniffs and happily accepts rubs. Once a 70-lb dog, who Jay said saved his life three times while hunting, she’s now emaciated, with cancer in her lungs and kidneys. Despite maintaining energy, discomfort is visible when she moves.

Related: Super 8 social housing gets easy pass in public hearing

That’s added to the difficulty finding a place, with one landlord telling him to “come back when she dies.”

It’s not just their dog that is struggling. A family member in his late-20s living in the campsite has cerebral palsy. Typically travelling on a scooter, he now has to crawl around on tarps strewn across the campsite.

“There’s so many people on disability, EI and pension, but it seems like the landlords don’t care. The City of Penticton or the government should crack down on these people that are trying to get more than what the house is worth,” Jay said.

“It seems like arbitration’s believing all these landlords. And they’re letting them get away with it. That’s why a lot of people up here are so mad at landlords, because they’ll use every excuse to get you out so they can raise the rent.

“That’s how everybody feels up here, all the families. That arbitration is letting them get away with it.”

Related: Motel fire highlights Penticton’s housing crisis

While it’s not cheap living in the city, Jay said it’s more expensive living in the forest, between the money spent on fuel heading in and out of town, up and down the mountain, money spent on repairing and maintaining the vehicles — brake pads go quickly, Jay’s son testified — fuel for their generator and water.

“I’d say it’s about $1,200 to live up here,” Jay said.

Many of the 28 families in the hills are struggling even more than Jay is. As a hunter, he’s got an elaborate setup of tents, a camper and a barbecue, as well as a shower he’s rigged up using a water pump he salvaged from a camper someone else left near their campsite.

And in the middle of it all, a Molson Brewery “I am Canadian” flag.

“Because I want to show people that I’m Canadian, but homeless. And, it seems like the government doesn’t care.”

Related: Temporary accommodations found for motel residents

All that gear is both a blessing and a curse — though it provides some extra comforts, it takes two or three hours to pack up and another two or three to set up in a new spot.

Others don’t have so many luxuries. In fact, Jay’s family gave an extra tent to a couple that didn’t have one.

That’s not an uncommon occurrence, either. Jay said there’s a strong sense of community in the hills, with families helping each other out with food, gas and water fairly regularly, and meeting once or twice a week for community meet-ups.

There, they have met an array of different people: a couple in their 60s, a family with toddlers and one couple that gave birth to a new baby just two months ago.

Driving up to the campsite, amid the evergreens that permeate the South Okanagan, a trichromatic rash of deciduous reds, oranges and yellows populates a part of the Upper Carmi area — a sign of autumn that’s not a common sight in many of the more natural parts of B.C.

But while a beauty to the eye, it’s a sign of harder times yet to come for Jay’s family, as temperatures dip.

“We’re worried with the snow coming soon, and we’ve got more coldness. It’s just that we don’t know what to do.”

Related: Nearly two-in-five renters living in inadequate housing: report

 

A B.C. family forced to live in the bush

A B.C. family forced to live in the bush

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

(TNRD Library)
Let the mystery of the Summer Reading Club begin

Are you ready to ‘Crack the Case’ at the Barriere Library?

(Metro Creative photo)
Gardeners of all ages invited to enter 2021 NT Fall Fair contests

The North Thompson Fall Fair Drive Thru scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 4,… Continue reading

Milsom Lodge was built in the East Barriere Valley when the Milsom brothers purchased two parcels of land in 1911, DL 2323 and DL2324. (Milsom’s photo)
The Milsom Lodge: The mansion, the ballroom, the history

“At the turn of the century, when so many families were leaving… Continue reading

teaser
Ladies Golf close enough for a cheery wave

A new month - new COVID rules - a new start. For… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read