Penticton woman helping those facing homelessness details harassments from public while volunteering

Harassed during outreach

While Shayla Doble is out in the South Okanagan community delivering soup, hot chocolate and donated clothes to people on the streets, her biggest worry is the general public harassing her.

On Friday night, Doble had a close call with a young driver who she said did not like the fact that she was feeding the less fortunate.

Doble claimed that a young man, looking to be in his late teens or early twenties, drove his vehicle right up onto the sidewalk pretending that he was going to hit her. The man and his three friends were screaming profanities at her and the individuals she was helping.

"They were just yelling at us and saying 'Get a job.' They were saying 'Don't be feeding them. You're just encouraging it,' and stuff like that," she added.

Doble said she had to move out of the way while she was handing out food to avoid being hit by the truck.

"A few words were exchanged by them and then they spun their tires and kind of laughed. But it isn't the first time it occurred. ...A few weeks ago as well, over by McDonald's, we had fries and stuff thrown at us."

Doble said she's sadly used to the negative feedback from the public. She's seen people throw hot chocolate and coffee over people on the streets before, soaking their clothes completely.

"My biggest fear is people driving by in vehicles and just threatening, throwing stuff. I know one guy drove by and threatened to cut someone's tent down," she said.

"Safety-wise, I'm not worried at all about our homeless people. My biggest concern right now is just people like that, the public that might not be in support of us."

Outside of these negative interactions, Doble said she has also seen support grow this winter.

"People pull up and say, 'Hey, thank you for what you're doing.' There's been a lot more encouragement to keep doing what we're doing."

Doble, along with four other friends, are out six times a week with meals, generally spending five nights serving food in Penticton and the other time in Summerland.

"You see the need and you see their smiles and their gratitude, and if I see 30 of those a night, that outweighs the one bit of that scary negative situation that I may encounter that night."

And the positives Doble has seen come from the outreach work over the past seven years of her volunteering are well worth it too.

"When I would go out and work, I would see people sleeping with just a sleeping bag in front of a business on a sidewalk or in a snowbank and I have friends and family that have been homeless as well," she said.

"It was organizations or just some kind caring people that would come out and give them a warm meal or something hot to drink and it kept them going for another day. And finally, they were able to get back on their feet. Sometimes it takes a couple of years.

"I guess that would be why I keep doing what I'm doing, because I've seen that success."

Doble said she wants people who don't support outreach work to understand how quickly someone can fall into homelessness.

"It could happen in a blink of an eye to you, it really could. There are a lot of people out there that are on the street for drug use, but you don't know what led them to that. There are a few people out here that have owned big companies, they get into an accident and all of a sudden, their life changed," Doble said.

"They might have taken pain medication, and that could have been what led them to that. ...Or it could be a mental illness that doesn't develop until later on."

Doble said their group continues to see people who are out because they simply can't make ends meet.

"Some of them after paying child support, after trying to pay their monthly expenses, they just don't have the means to afford housing and with rising costs, I'm scared that we may see more of that," Doble said.

"The biggest message would be even if you don't support something, don't go out of your way. Just drive on by."

Doble sincerely thanked the community that does provide ongoing donations and support.

"Sometimes it's heartbreaking if you go out and you see someone who needs a pair of winter boots, and I say sorry, 'I don't have that size right now.' But then if I go up to Facebook and I post saying 'Hey, does anyone have this type of size?' The next day we're able to help."

Currently, the group is in need of hot cocoa, toiletries, and mitts.

"We could always use snack bag items. We try and have snacks that are able to chew easily because a lot of our less fortunate have teeth missing."

They also are always in need of blankets, socks, boots and hand warmers, along with food donations such as homemade soup, chilli or porridge.

"We do take clothing donations as well and then sometimes we just get tons of clothing so we also try and make sure that we help other organizations in the area as well."

Donations were collected this past week, and Doble sent out some extra items to Interior Health's mental health and substance use centre, the Ooknakane Friendship Centre, Oliver Mission Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Bethel Church food pantry.

Donations can be dropped off at Hotel Penticton, located at 950 Westminster Ave. Residents can also reach out to Doble directly, who can be contacted through her Facebook here, or by email at [email protected]

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