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Catching up after a life on the street
Two months after authorities took Ryan Ashe off the streets and into hospital, White Rock’s best-known homeless man says he’s no better, no worse than he was before.
“I went ahead and did what they told me. I got a bed and I got meals – better than nothing,” Ashe said earlier this month, from his perch at the Thrift Avenue bus stop he used to call home.
“They gave me a bunker under an old house.”
Ashe, who has been a familiar figure on White Rock’s uptown street corners for decades, was hospitalized in October, one week after a Peace Arch News letter-writer detailed her concerns with the “dirty and scary looking” figure.
City officials told PAN in April that for safety and health reasons, Ashe would have to be moved from a bus stop he had overtaken in the 1400-block of Johnston Road.
The decision sparked a flurry of letters to the editor, some critical, some supportive.
Ashe now says his time in hospital was the worst of the experience. He’s sure, after going 13 years without “a cold or a sniffle,” that it contributed to him developing pneumonia.
But those who’ve kept an eye on Ashe over the years say he looks healthier now than he had in a long time.
“He looks better from a perspective of looking at him, looks a bit more cleaner,” said Helen Fathers, a White Rock councillor who has known Ashe for more than 20 years.
“His eyes look a lot brighter and his beard looks a bit trimmed.”
A distinct difference now is the lack of tarped-up belongings near Ashe. Prior to October, he kept his things in a shopping cart or pile near his camp, covered in brown and blue tarps.
Ashe said many of his things were destroyed following the forced move; deemed garbage by city officials.
But city manager Dan Bottrill assured that was not the case.
“Anything of value was secured by our RCMP. Other items were collected and stored,” Bottrill said.
“Once we were aware that Ryan was being transferred from the hospital, the hospital administration contacted us to let us know where we should be delivering Ryan’s belongings.”
Nothing was thrown out, Bottrill added.
“We wanted to respect that Ryan had some things,” he said. “We didn’t make any decisions about what should stay and what should not stay. That would concern me if that was the case.”
Shown a photo of himself taken for this article, Ashe quips that he “looks just as fluffy as I always do.”
When it is suggested that steps taken in recent months may have been done with his best interests in mind, he points to a bigger picture.
“It is in my best interest as a citizen to know there’s no reason for people to be on the streets… risking it all,” he said.
“I want more out of my life than just getting up for breakfast so I can get up for dinner.”