With increased focus on a well-known homeless man in Sardis on Thursday (Feb. 11) after Chilliwack firefighters built him a structure, Fraser Health intervened and the man was taken to Chilliwack General Hospital for assessment.
James has been living on the streets of Chilliwack for years, sleeping and sitting in recent years in a spot on Vedder Road by the government liquor store.
On Thursday, members of the Chilliwack Fire Department built him an elevated structure made from plywood, with materials donated by Canex Building Supplies.
James has received considerable sympathy and social media mentions in recent years as people speculate and tell stories of his past. The Progress is not repeating those anecdotes and rumours as the man himself declined to speak to reporters beyond thanking the firefighters for building the structure.
On Thursday, Mayor Ken Popove wrote a detailed letter to Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee asking for proactive outreach to deal with the 55-year-old who people have asked questions about over the years regarding his mental well-being and physical health.
Among the concerns expressed by Popove were: “The probability of serious impairing mental health issues, which causes James to believe that he is serving his hell on Earth for some incident that may have happened years ago.”
“The greater concern is that despite a clear sense of urgency for this man’s life, there seems to be nothing that can be done. We appreciate that people are able to lay eyes on him, and bring him coffee, but this man’s physical and mental health are rapidly deteriorating, and he needs to be brought inside and given a full assessment that can lead to intervention.”
Soon after the structure was built for James on Feb. 11, and The Progress spoke with him, Chilliwack RCMP were called to stand by and keep the peace while a doctor from Fraser Health conducted a medical assessment.
“Chilliwack RCMP have received regular calls from community members who have expressed concern regarding this man’s well-being,” according to RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Krista Vrolyk. “Given the recent drop in temperatures, our officers were checking on him daily – sometimes multiple times each day. Concerns regarding this individual’s health have surfaced and Fraser Health was engaged.”
When the doctor attended, it was determined that James could not be properly assessed on the street, and he was transported to Chilliwack General Hospital for further care.
“Chilliwack RCMP respond to multiple calls daily regarding the well-being of individuals in our community,” Vrolyk said. “We share the community’s concerns and our goal is to work collaboratively with our community partners to ensure that people receive the help and assistance they need.”
The Progress chatted briefly with James on Thursday and asked if he had anything else to say to the Good Samaritans who made the structure for him.
“No. Just thank you,” he said.