Why a well-known Kamloops homeless man and his cat struggle to find a place to live | iNFOnews

Graham Donovan and his famous cat.

Image Credit: Presenter / Facebook

Jan 03 2022 – 6:00 AM

Some of the homeless in Kamloops struggle to find a place to live because they do not have a personal identity or cannot find a place free from the temptations of drug and alcohol use in the open.

Graham Donovan, along with his famous cat, is living in the cold despite the efforts of supportive community members and friends to find him a home. Donovan is famous in the Valleyview neighborhood of Kamloops.

Sarah Hislop has been helping Donovan and his furry companion since they met over two years ago. She has spent Christmas and his birthday with him, washing his blankets, helping take care of his money and possessions, and stocking up on cat food in her house. She said that despite her best efforts, there were barriers to him reaching a safe place to live.

“The biggest problem is that Graham doesn’t have a defining piece,” Hislop said. This prevents him from reaching residences, motels, and hotels. At one point, ASK Wellness did work to get his birth certificate but it was stolen along with his carriage shortly thereafter, before I brought him a government-issued photo ID.”

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Heslop said Graham did not want to be in an environment where he could be tempted to relapse from drug addiction.

“He was offered housing through ASK Wellness but he had to be around people who were on drugs and he felt like he would relapse in that kind of environment,” Hislop said. “It usually stays in the Valleyview area away from the lower barrier shelters and downtown hangouts.”

Hislop said Donovan was a quiet guy who might give a stranger the shirt off his back. A group of five people keeps in touch via social media with each other and monitors his well-being.

She said Donovan’s gentle and confident nature makes him a target for other people who live on the streets.

“His car and possessions are often stolen,” she said. “Every month he brings me the check to distribute on him weekly because there is no safe place to carry anything.”

Hislop said she wanted to see Donovan find a safe and warm place to live with his famous cat.

“He has some mental challenges and is on medication,” she said. “He’s lived on the streets for 30 years after getting old outside of nurseries. He will need help learning basic skills, and we have volunteers on hand to help with that.”

Hyslop cannot accommodate a spouse after only two children have been adopted and with most family members allergic to cats.

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Jennifer Dawn Adams has been doing street outreach in Kamloops for over a decade.

She said she is familiar with many homeless people who are in a similar situation as Graham and hopes to shed more light on personal identity and housing issues.

“Most of the people I’ve worked with don’t have personal identification cards,” she said. “It is very common for those without ID to not be able to access motels and hotels. These people are vulnerable, often robbed and do not have safe places to store important items.”

Adams said there are very few high barrier places available in Kamloops for those who need to stay off drug use to avoid relapse.

“Most of the housing models available to the homeless have a designated consumption area on site that can be a trigger,” she said. “I think we need to deploy housing models to meet the needs of those who are in different places on their way to recovery.”

Adams said it’s not easy for people to get help to get sober in Kamloops, with limited beds available at local rehabilitation facilities that are currently downgraded due to COVID restrictions.

“We need to continue to educate on the issues and provide more abstinence-free spaces for those trying to get better,” she said. “We need to keep having these conversations. If the right ideas emerge they can help push things into a positive and less risky environment, and increase the chances of recovery.”

As for Famous the cat, Adams said she has seen a growing trend in supportive housing programs to allow pets, to improve the mental health of owners.

ASK Wellness declined to comment for confidentiality reasons. The Canadian Mental Health Association of Kamloops did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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