This weekend, for the first time in about 10 years, Roy Mercer and Darlene Fox may be more than just homeless.
“We’re going from homelessness to street people again,” Mercer said Wednesday. “Having to sleep on top of each other to stay warm – we know all about it.”
The couple, who call a forested patch of private land in South Surrey home, learned late last month that they would have to move on. Told that the city had received a complaint, they were given until Nov. 1 – this Saturday – to leave.
As of Peace Arch News’ press deadline Wednesday, it remained unclear if the order would be enforced.
But Mercer said he and Fox were trying to prepare for it nonetheless – Mercer even started a full-time job this month, working with heavy equipment in Richmond, but had to give it up after a week due to difficulties with depth perception.
“Boy, was I mad,” he said, adding he will continue part-time work loading trucks.
The couple say they would reject any offer of shelter beds.
This week, officials at Surrey’s Hyland House – a program of Options Community Services that offers emergency shelter and support to the homeless – promised to arrange for a bin “in the next few days” that they can use to clear the myriad items they’ve collected or built over the years.
The balance is to be put in storage.
Mercer and Fox believe that plans to develop the property adjacent to where they have been staying are central in the push to move them along. But they’ve yet to hear specifics about the complaint that triggered the order.
The couple has not relied on income-assistance or any other government help in the past, and said they do not plan to start now. Mercer said looking for a new “home” is complicated by the steps they take just to survive. Everything they need to do – collecting scrap metal and bottles, for example – they do at night, all the while keeping an eye on area businesses.
Mercer worries that crime in the area will increase if he and Fox aren’t around to take care of things.
He said he has the skills for a variety of jobs, he just needs an opportunity to prove himself.
“I’m really good at mechanics – I can fix just about anything,” he said.
Peter Fedos of Hyland House described the couple as “self-sufficient.”
Citing confidentiality, he said he couldn’t get into specifics of their case, but did say that whatever happens, they won’t have to live on the street and changes will be made at a pace they are comfortable with.
“That’s home, and I get why,” Fedos said. “They feel safe there.
“We’ll go as fast as Roy wants to go.”