A 65-year-old homeless man is astounded by the generosity and support shown to him and his dog, Jake, in Williams Lake.
Up until last Saturday evening Brian Owen had been living in his pickup truck in city limits.
But when temperatures began dipping to near the -30C mark and a Williams Lake resident and her husband expressed concern for his wellbeing on social media, a chain of events transpired resulting in him being housed in a local motel and being reunited with his half sister on Vancouver Island.
“It wasn’t something I was even remotely considering happening,” said Owen, who grew up and attended school in Williams Lake before moving away to the Lower Mainland for school in the 1970s.
“When Christine [Habsburg] and Marcel [Habsburg] showed up I had a certain amount I could maybe get a hotel room with and get a weekly rate for this cold spell. But they came along and said they’d arranged to have a hotel room for a couple nights for me and I was blown away. I was reluctant to accept it at first.”
In the meantime, Christine’s Facebook post went viral locally. Donations began pouring in which, by Tuesday afternoon, had reached above $1,700, along with clothing, groceries, meals and dog food.
Owen’s half sister living on Vancouver Island also saw the post, and reached out to Christine to see if he would be willing to come and live with her at her home.
“The last time I saw her in person was 25 years ago,” Owen said.
“We had talked in 2007 by phone, but that was the last time I’d talked to her. She had lymphatic cancer and she didn’t want to take the treatments. I wasn’t sure if she would survive, but she did.”
Owen arrived in Williams Lake at the end of July from Alberta looking for work and a place to live, and said he always loved the area and considered it home.
While attempting to save money, on top of a small, reduced pension for some necessary repairs to the truck which he was living in, Owen was unsuccessful in finding work.
In early December the insurance on his truck expired.
“I was looking for a place to rent, but with Jake we weren’t able to get any subsidized housing,” he said. “There were places, but they are $700 to $750 a month and on a $960 pension that doesn’t leave much for anything else.”
Over the last six months Owen has been utilizing the Salvation Army for meals and showers, and the local library and thrift stores for books to keep him occupied.
Owen and his canine companion, an 11-year-old border collie, have been inseparable since Owen got him when he was a puppy in Calgary.
When he found out how much the community had donated to help him, he was in shock.
“Now I just hope I can get my truck in to get repairs in the next couple of days and get to the Island to see my sister,” he said.
“I just want to thank everyone so much,” he said.
“It’s greatly appreciated, and I wasn’t expecting so much. People have been coming down, dropping off food, clothes and things to help me get my truck back on the road to get down to my sister’s place.”
Christine, meanwhile, said the community should be commended.
“Everybody’s contributed above and beyond,” she said. “I think he’s a very proud man who has encountered some very unfortunate circumstances, and I’m so glad we caught him at the beginning of this cold snap.”
Habsburg said the donated money will be used to repair the man’s windshield, a fan and, possibly, brakes.
“All I did was state that a man needed warmth and all of these beautiful souls stepped up and made this small miracle possible,” she said.
“They deserve the credit for all of this. I’m brought to tears at their kindness and generosity.”