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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

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

Just Posted

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

RCMP are looking for “an unknown man who wrapped his arms around” a female youth in Clayton Feb. 26. (Black Press file photo)
Youth assaulted by unknown man in Cloverdale

Mounties looking for ‘tall and thin’ Caucasian man in his 40’s with short dark brown hair

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

South Surrey’s Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann – the Bergmann Piano Duo – will present another colorful Surrey Civic Theatres Digital Stage concert., premiering online March 11. Contributed photo
South Surrey pianists Bergmann Duo blend musical colours

Rhapsody In Blue meets The Red Violin in online concert

St. John Ambulance is looking for financial support in its bid to install 1,000 publicly accessible AED devices throughout British Columbia. The stands which hold the defibrillator also contain naloxone and first aid kits. Cost to equip and install each stand is around $8,000. (stock photo)
St. John Ambulance aims to install 1,000 publicly accessible AEDs across B.C.

First of two defibrillators planned for Crescent Beach already in place

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Most Read