The Abbotsford Police Department is warning that the opioid crisis is worsening.

The Abbotsford Police Department is warning that the opioid crisis is worsening.

QUINN’S QUIPS: Happy endings are hard to find

Homelessness and addiction make for vicious cycle

Jenny Lynn has been living in addiction for more than 20 years. She is somewhere between 40 and 44, and says she started taking substances when she was around five years old—a family member sold pharmaceutical products which were readily available to her.

READ: 153 people died of drug overdoses in November in B.C.; deaths climb in seniors

Jenny Lynn is a 20-year resident of Port Alberni. She has been living on the street this time for the past year, and only in the past few months has she been living in the trailers that Randy Brown has put up illegally—according to the City of Port Alberni—in the parking lot beside the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue.

“Life’s not great in addiction,” she said. She has a 13-year-old son with special needs, and she relinquished her parental rights in an effort to give him a better life.

“He’s my only family I had.”

Jenny Lynn might debate whether she is one of the lucky ones—she has been in and out of treatment, her liver is shutting down and she’s tired—but the numbers of people who are losing their addiction battle due to drug toxicity are skyrocketing in 2020. In November alone, 152 people in B.C. died of drug toxicity.

As a society we’re quick to judge when we see someone in the midst of addiction. We don’t think of the people that are hiding theirs until something tragic happens. I was surprised to hear recently of an acquaintance who overdosed. They were lucky: they survived, and the incident was enough of a wake-up call that they got help.

Many aren’t as lucky.

READ: Red ribbons mark drug overdose deaths in poignant Port Alberni display

The Community Action Team earlier this month put up a small memorial in front of the Salvation Army, of stakes with red ribbons representing the 46 mid-Island residents who died of overdoses or drug toxicity in 2020 between January and October. Add in Nanaimo’s numbers, which are tracked separately, and the number jumps to 83. Now that the November statistics are out, CAT vice-chair Ron Merk expects those numbers will be higher.

While homelessness, mental health issues and drug use all seem to create a vicious cycle, Merk said people on the street only represent 30 percent of drug toxicity deaths. “A good 50 to 70 percent of the deaths are people I would class as middle class,” he said. “They have semi-functioning families, they have homes, they have jobs.”

The coronavirus pandemic has amplified the numbers, he adds, but not the general profile of drug users in central Vancouver Island. “I’m more concerned about the man, 25 years old, a family man, doing drugs alone in his basement,” says Merk.

A BC Coroners report notes men between the ages of 30–59 years accounted for 80 percent of overdose deaths in British Columbia in the past year. “Think about that. Prime working age,” writes retired counsellor Ben Goerner in Overdose Blue Collar Blues, a blog post at ptalbcat.blogspot.com.

“These overdoses overwhelmingly occurred in private residences,” he wrote. More than half were employed in trades and transport, more than 20 percent in sales and services.

Not your typical street person, Merk adds.

READ: Overdose blue collar blues: Ben Goerner

Mark Braunagel could have fit the blue collar profile. Now 50 and advocating for a men’s addiction recovery centre to open in Port Alberni, Braunagel said he went to rehab five times before he was able to come out the other side of his addiction. Now he talks to others as a person with lived experience—he shares his story to show others that he was where they once were, and gives them a glimpse of hope that will be there when they’re ready.

Braunagel introduced me to Jenny Lynn, told me she had a story to tell, and I’m grateful.

READ: ‘Lifeguard’ app launches as a made-in-B.C. solution to help prevent overdose deaths

Everyone living in homelessness or with addiction has a story. They don’t all have happy endings. Sometimes all it takes to gain better understanding of a person’s situation is to ask them.

Jenny Lynn’s story is going to stay with me for a long, long time.

Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor. If you are in addiction and insist on using alone, please download the Lifeguard app on your smart phone and activate it—it could be the difference between life and death.

opioid addictionPort Alberni

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

Just Posted

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
ACRD, City of Port Alberni receive $4 million for COVID-19

Municipalities have until end of 2021 to allocate funding

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni pressures Arrowview Hotel owner for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Building owner digs in heels, refuses to remove illegal trailers from property

Port Alberni council gives owner two-week reprieve on remediation orders

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree planting life on Vancouver Island features in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read