Hope fades in finding vulnerable B.C. wildfire evacuee

A 67-year-old Williams Lake man has not been seen or heard from in four months since evacuating to Kamloops

David Michael Jeff, 67, is still missing after he evacuated from Williams Lake on Saturday, July 15. Angie Mindus photo

Now that winter has arrived, a homelessness worker in Williams Lake said his hope is dimming that David Michael Jeff is OK.

“I was hoping once winter arrived that David would tap in somewhere and connect with someone,” said Wayne Lucier, who works with Canadian Mental Health Cariboo Chilcotin Branch in Williams Lake. “I don’t think someone would be letting him stay with them this long without letting somebody know.”

Jeff, 67, was among the residents of Williams Lake who were evacuated on Saturday, July 15. He was last seen in Kamloops on Aug. 4.

One of the people who saw Jeff in Kamloops during the evacuation was Ollie Martens.

“He was standing about a block from the main emergency centre,” Martens said. “I said ‘hi David’ and he had that little grin of his that is just his.”

Martens volunteers with St. Vincent de Paul and enjoyed serving Jeff soup in Boitanio Park on Sundays.

“He is our lovable friend,” she said. “We gave him mitts constantly because he would lose them all the time, but he is one of those types of people who has to handle things on their own terms.”

Lucier said the “sad part” is CMHA had to let someone else move into Jeff’s apartment at Jubilee Place in Williams Lake where he had been living since April 2015.

Jubilee Place is a 33-unit transitional housing facility that opened in 2010 at a former motel that specifically houses people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“His Old Age Pension money is still coming in and we don’t know how long we can keep that going, but if we stop them it would take a long time to get it started up again,” Lucier said.

Esk’etemc Chief Charlene Belleau organized a large search party for Jeff in Kamloops, that eventually moved to Kelowna based on a possible sighting of Jeff there.

Belleau said Tuesday she has heard nothing new about him.

Jeff is described as Aboriginal, standing five feet and five inches tall, weighing 146 pounds, with grey shoulder-length hair and brown eyes.

Staff and patrons of the local rink and pool complex in Williams Lake said they miss seeing Jeff, who regularly spent time at the complex to stay out of the elements, and enjoyed watching hockey.

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