Steve Robinson has had it with homelessness.
After a couple months of sleeping on benches, behind a White Rock shopping centre or in empty rental homes he’s been hired to renovate, Robinson has his eye on an apartment.
“I have the funds,” he told Peace Arch News. “I haven’t bottle-picked in three weeks.”
But without his canine best friend, the thought of curling up outside – or inside – his fifth-wheel trailer has become inconceivable.
Echo, who had been with Robinson since she was a puppy, died by his side Aug. 24, under a tree in the yard of a Crescent Beach home. She was almost 12.
“I don’t want an apartment,” Robinson says. “(But) now, my trailer’s ugly to me because I don’t have my dog. That dog… was my life.”
Robinson said in a recent interview that both good and bad things have happened since he first shared his story with the community, in PAN’s July 21 issue.
He received more than 100 pounds of dog food, but was also told the loading dock area where he slept was going to be caged off. He’s banned from a local liquor store, but found work renovating rental homes.
“I was treated very well by the public.”
Robinson doesn’t speak as well of the police, who, he claims, regularly ‘roust’ the homeless in an attempt to push them out of White Rock.
Authorities dispute the claim, but Robinson said the situation has “gotten worse and worse and worse” since the article appeared.
He said he has been arrested three times for being drunk in public – and only once with justification.
“One time I was (drunk), I gotta admit,” he said. “The day after Echo died.”
White Rock Staff Sgt. Lesli Roseberry says her officers have not been directed to target the homeless, although they do respond when the public raise complaints.
“We have no strategy in place for homelessness,” Roseberry said. “We don’t go and move them along.”
Const. Janelle Shoihet, who sits on the Peninsula Homeless to Housing Round Table, agreed there hasn’t been enforcement targeting the homeless. Records show a decline in the number of interactions police have had with Robinson, she noted, from seven in June to three in both July and August.
White Rock residents are vigilant, she noted, about reporting anything out of the ordinary.
“It’s a small community, so homeless people would stand out. There’s a different expectation of people in South Surrey/White Rock.”
Robinson told PAN in July that he believes every municipality should have facilities for its homeless, and criticized White Rock as falling short.
He said he has been fortunate in recent weeks – he’s been able to stay in homes he is renovating while he works. He plans to get an apartment with his girlfriend in the near future.
But he’s still determined to have his concerns heard by White Rock officials. Multiple calls requesting a meeting with Mayor Catherine Ferguson have gone unreturned, he said.
Ferguson told PAN this week she hadn’t received any messages. “If he wanted to meet with me, I’d have no problem. If there’s any way that we can help him…”
Ferguson said affordable housing isn’t an option “at this point in time.” And a compassion park, with shower and sleep facilities, isn’t the answer, either.
“There is no easy solution,” she said, adding she looked to the federal and provincial governments for a homeless strategy.
“In the meantime, we’re doing our best.”
For Robinson, the days ahead are about giving Echo a proper farewell. He plans to spread Echo’s ashes in the same area of Crescent Beach where he sprinkled his mother’s ashes many years ago, not far from the small blue house where he grew up.