How Kaleb found life again after tragedy, hardship and homelessness
It’s hard to think of what life event would drown your spirit to the point of pushing away friends, having no drive to work and ending up on the streets. It’s a reality far-fetched for most until the hypothetical becomes real.
Imagine what life would look like if in the next two years you lost your fiancé, brother and father to illness or suicide. This is the story of Kaleb, who surrendered to depression and experienced homelessness after the loss of the people he loved most in a short period of time.
“Kaleb demonstrated exhaustive work ethic by building an underground shelter on the fringes of the city, but poor ventilation in the shelter and the instability of the marshy land the shelter was built on posed health concerns for him,” explains Damien Lachat, Street Outreach Team member for Boyle Street Community Services. Although Kaleb had a natural ability to build elaborate shelters on public land while experiencing homelessness, years outside surviving Edmonton’s weather conditions took a toll on his physical and mental health.
A Boyle Street Outreach Team member walking in the River Valley checking in on Edmontonians experiencing homelessness. Outreach Team members carry First-Aid kits and have on hand warm socks, bottled water and granola bars for people they come across.
“We met Kaleb in early March of this year when he was seeking housing. We built trust with Kaleb through regular visits to his shelter, providing immediate resources such as food and clothing, and advocacy to find him an understanding healthcare practitioner,” Damien said. This is the first step the Homeless on Public Lands committee (HoPL) takes to help Edmontonians experiencing homelessness. Boyle Street is one of four organizations which make up the HoPL committee and are the first point of contact with Edmontonians on the streets. As Boyle Street’s Outreach Team built a relationship with Kaleb through conversation and emotional support, Kaleb started opening up about the loss of his loved ones and his depression, and recognized he needed help. Damien explains, “Things were not always straightforward with Kaleb. Knowing when to offer support, or when to offer space, was navigated with care for trust to be established. A chain reaction of support began when we found Kaleb a medical practitioner which led to access to income support, nutrition,transportation subsidization and housing.”
Encampments on public land are made up of various items to create shelter from the elements. Did you know that once an encampment is deemed vacated, City Operations, a member of the Homeless on Public Lands committee, cleans up and restores the land for public use.
Today, Kaleb is successfully housed and continues with his medical and mental health treatment. He takes pride in decorating and repairing his apartment and is reconnecting with friends. Kaleb is working on a plan to return to work, or share his construction and woodworking skills. With the help of the Boyle Street Outreach Team and the HoPL committee, Kaleb has taken the steps to move from hopelessness to a place of hope and optimism.
An important addition to building a relationship with people in need often involves simple gestures of comfort and safety. Kaleb received this needed attention by Boyle Street’s Outreach Team which led to physical and mental support, and housing.
The Homeless on Public Lands committee is made up of four local organizations working towards ending homelessness in Edmonton. Take a look at how the organizations work together from meeting Edmontonians experiencing homelessness to cleaning up encampments on public land.
A challenge for City Operations staff is the difficult terrain. Establishing a rappelling program was key to increasing the access to debris accumulating in our natural areas. The winching of debris out of the river valley is also a key component of the program in remote locations, such as Dawson Park. This park especially is home to difficult access points.