I’m okay, are you okay?

Ron Betts going hard on a powder day.

According to a recent survey, the homeless population in Kamloops is estimated to be 190 people; that number is up from 100 in the previous survey two years ago. General consensus is that the actual number is much higher than reported because not everyone could be counted in the survey.

Some people find themselves homeless due to financial burden, others are dealing with mental health issues, addiction, or some combination of all three. The problem is complex, and I certainly don’t profess to having all the answers to why people find themselves without stable housing, nor do I have the expertise to know how to solve the problem.

What I do have is empathy for those who find themselves in need of something most of us take for granted and sympathy for the reasons they find themselves in that position.

I have noticed though, after more winter seasons than I sometimes care to admit, that the problems which cause issues in urban centres also exist in ski towns, although they can be a bit harder to spot through all the glitter of a resort setting. Look closely and you’ll see all of the same stresses and issues are present, in some cases even more so.

There are very few jobs that require the amount of physical and mental output day after day that resort jobs do. Workers who are outdoors are expected to do their jobs safely and efficiently, in all kinds of weather. Resort workers who are indoors are constantly dealing with a steady stream of guests who expect and deserve exceptional customer service. Add to that the very real situation that many resort workers find themselves in: often young, away from home for the first time, away from normal support networks, surrounded by like-minded new friends who are enjoying the excesses that are available. It’s no wonder that a beer or two after work can, over time, become something more serious.

Before I start sounding like someone who is against people having a good time, let me say this: the experience of working and living in a resort setting can be life changing. Lifelong friends and memories will be made and often it’s the most fun you will ever have in a work setting.

For others, who may have a predisposition for certain behaviours, it can be the match that starts the fire. Speaking from personal experience, I learned that the party lifestyle, easily accessible drugs and alcohol and a steady stream of people who wanted to give ‘er, was a dangerous combination.

I was one of the lucky ones. I’ve been clean and sober now for 20 years. My own experience with substance abuse has allowed me to be more aware of those around me who may need some help. I’m not suggesting abstinence is the key. What I think we need are more of the things that make us human, starting with understanding and compassion.

If you see someone you think needs a friend, be that friend. Don’t be the enabler who encourages something destructive, be the voice that isn’t afraid to ask, “Are you okay?”

Sometimes that simple question is enough to make someone think about their choices. It’s a long and awesome winter so let’s remember one of the best things about sharing seasons together is we all have hundreds of brothers and sisters. It really is all about family, and sometimes families need to speak the truth to one another.

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