A homeless advocate and someone who is experiencing homelessness himself is back in Smithers and says he’s ready to make some noise for the unhoused.
Zolican (who doesn’t want to use his legal name) was living in Smithers from 2011-2015 before moving down to Abbotsford to find work. He has recently come back up north and has been camping at Tyhee Lake Provincial Park. He said he’s happy to be back.
“Delighted,” he said. “Oh, yeah. Just like dying and going back to heaven.”
He collects disability insurance which he said isn’t enough to live on. He gets $375 a month, not enough to pay rent. In Abbotsford, he was living with a friend and they were able to combine their disability payments and rent a room together for $750 but things between the two didn’t work out.
He used to be in construction until stress-induced blackouts caused him to quit. Now he also has a bad back but he’s happy living a non-conventional lifestyle.
“Happy is not a strong enough word to describe it,” he explained. “Okay, I am better than happy I am free. All the stresses of everyday life.… I don’t have to worry about bills. I don’t have to worry about anybody taking away anything that I’ve got. I’m up here and I am going to make a better life for myself. Plus, I’m going to do everything I can to help as many people as I can.”
He wants to stand up for those who live in poverty and said governments need to step up and help those who can’t afford or find proper housing.
“Another big problem is so many people out there who are addicted, hooked on alcohol and drugs. And a lot of people don’t want those kind of people in their buildings. That’s another big issue. So the government has got to put more effort into building places that those kinds of people can live in, get them off the streets,” he said.
“Every time there’s an election, government promises to create affordable housing. But what they don’t tell you is who can afford those houses, right? Rich people in government pay no taxes. It’s not right.”
At the campground, he has set up a semi-permanent shelter. He has built a plywood floor with lumber holding up some tarps. He has salvaged most of what he has from the transfer station. He can take apart the shelter and move it to another location but he doesn’t want to. He’s comfortable at the park and he likes to talk to other campers who walk by and are interested in his cause.
However, provincial park rules state that he can’t stay more than 14 days so he knows his time is coming up. As of our press deadline, Zolican said he was told to leave but plans to stand his ground.
“I was told to move out of here today (Monday) but I really can’t afford to that right now,” he said. “It looks like I have a fight on my hands here.”
Meanwhile, he has applied for a permit to cut wood so he can sell firewood and if he has to, he’ll camp out where he gets his permit.
He plans on selling his firewood for fair prices, under market value.
“The world has gotten so greedy,” he said. “Everybody is out to get as much as they can for themselves. Don’t worry, think about the next guy. That’s why I’m coming in. I’m going to show people this is the way it should be, care about you as a person. If you see somebody that’s down, don’t give them a handout, give them a hand up.”