Operation Street Angel at 1st Street South and 17th Ave. South. Barry Coulter photo

Saved from the depths

Man credits Operation Street Angel for rescuing him from depression, homelessness and alcohol

A man who lives in the region has wanted to reach out to publicly acknowledge Operation Street Angel, which he credits for rescuing him from a life at rock bottom, a homeless subsistence caused by depression and alcohol.

Operation Street Angel is an agency run out of Cranbrook by the Ktunaxa Nation, which provides services to homeless and at-risk individuals and families.

The Townsman agreed to present the man anonymously, to protect his privacy while acknowledging his very personal story with Street Angel.

Three years ago, he was a working professional, but as he says, something was not right.

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“I became more and more depressed,” he wrote in an email to the Townsman. “I could barely deal with buying groceries, due to anxiety.”

Finally, he said, he just gave up.

“I walked away from my job, left my car on the side of the road, threw away my wallet, bought as much alcohol as I could, and walked into the forest. I built a little shelter from an old pallet and sat down hoping to die.

“That never happened, but not for lack of trying.”

After a few months, he said he got the strength to try to seek help.

“I was offered pills from doctors and sent away. I was offered one hour a week with a councillor and sent away.

He said his experiences with various charities ended up being of no help to him, either.

“I decided to give the bottle and the forest another try,” he said.

He had heard about a place called Operation Street Angel from another homeless person, but at first did not want to go check it out.

“I had an bitter taste in my mouth from the other places I had tried, and for some reason I thought it would be filled drug addicts, angry drunks, and be a dangerous place. Eventually hunger drove me there.”

Instead of the hellish atmosphere he had feared he would find, he found a warm place, with staff that truly cared.

“When Jim Whitehead heard I was sleeping on a shipping pallet, he gave me a brand new tent,” he said. “When Everette Willier heard I had no bedding he brought my some from his own home. On days when I was not around they would come and check on me and bring food and water.

“Tami Pocha, worked on days when the should be closed because it was cold, they would open early on those days. Tami would find guys cash jobs to help them out.”

He said the staff went out of their way to make people safe, but more importantly, make them part of something — something good.

“The food there was outstanding, and came at the cost of one dollar, or a small chore. I would joke that I never thought I would get fatter being homeless.”

Street Angels provided internet, cable, laundry, showers and a clean safe place to be.

“On the days when my mental state was in a bad place, anyone there would be more then willing to listen. I cried on many shoulders there. But I also laughed.”

He said anything donated to them was given for free to the clients in need, be it a baby stroller, cloths, furniture, or electronics.

“I met Father Andrew from the Saint Aidan church there. He was amazing man, he was understanding, warm and helpful and became a great supporter and friend. They hooked me up with a Nurse Practitioner — Tara Fielder-Graham from the Ktunaxa Nation. She was amazing with helping me with my heath and also just took the time to talk on days I could not function.”

Three years later, the man is back at work, and back in the world. He says he owes his re-ascent from the depths to the work of Street Angel and the people who are involved with it, and wanted to acknowledge the difference they made in his life and the difference they made in the lives of others.

“These are the people that make a difference to so many people — I have seen this with my own eyes. “The scale was beyond my scope, as I am sure it is for many people. I want to give all these people a heart felt thank you, you saved me.

“For those of you reading this if you have any way to support or feel the need to donate, it will be going to the right place and the right reason.”

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