News

Big brother located in hospital

White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers (centre) and Kimberly Martin speak with Ryan Ashe in April. - File photo
White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers (centre) and Kimberly Martin speak with Ryan Ashe in April.
— image credit: File photo

It took a week and a trip to Peace Arch Hospital, but the sister of White Rock’s much-discussed homeless man finally knows where her older brother is.

But Orphee Martin said she still doesn’t know what will happen to Ryan Ashe once doctors have completed a psychiatric assessment of him.

“I actually traced him down to Peace Arch Hospital, and he can have visitors,” Martin said Monday. “He’s there and he seems to be fine.

“It’s just a question of what happens after that?”

Authorities removed Ashe and his belongings from his ‘camp’ at a Thrift Avenue bus stop on Oct. 5. The 56-year-old – who has been a fixture in White Rock for decades – had been there since late April, following a request from city officials to vacate a bus stop on Johnston Road at Thrift.

At that time, Mayor Wayne Baldwin told Peace Arch News the request was the result of complaints from area residents, and in the interest of Ashe’s own safety, in light of  nearby development getting underway.

Ashe’s location was “starting to become a bit of a safety issue,” Baldwin said.

Last month, a letter to the editor from an area resident concerned about Ashe’s negative impact on the city sparked a flurry of passionate debate.

There has also been speculation that the complaint triggered Ashe’s recent removal.

Officials have been reluctant to comment on the situation.

Requests by PAN to both the city and RCMP have been referred to Fraser Health. Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said confidentiality rules prevent him from commenting on a specific patient, though he noted that if an individual is picked up under the Mental Health Act, two psychiatrists would have to sign off in order to keep the patient in hospital on an involuntary basis.

Martin – who learned of her brother’s relocation through a phone call from Coun. Helen Fathers – said that from what she’s seen over the years, the act does little to protect people who are mentally ill. Her father had Ashe assessed many years ago, she said, and all that happened was he was prescribed medication which he eventually stopped taking.

“There’s no way to force him to take it. It just becomes that circle of pointlessness. This has been the system for 20-some years, when they moved people out of institutions and they suddenly decided everybody had the right to be insane… that just does not seem to make sense to me. Maybe it’s cheaper to leave them on the streets.”

Martin is also not convinced the recent move to hospitalize Ashe was made out of concern for her brother’s health.

“I don’t think they’ve decided to get him some help so much as to get him off the street,” she said.

“There’s obviously new development moving in, and they don’t wish to have people living on their park bench that are unsightly. That’s just ultimately what it comes down to.”

If it was about Ashe’s health, “they should’ve acted 18 years ago,” she said.

To those who argue that Ashe has always shrugged off offers of help, Martin said the argument doesn’t hold water.

“That’s fine if a person’s sane.”

She wonders if steps now are too little, too late.

“He’s essentially not going to see significant improvement,” Martin said. “Is there anything you can really do, or is it ultimately just cross your fingers and hope?”

 

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