Since John Goddard became homeless, a good night’s sleep has been a rarity.
But a decent rest has become a veritable albatross since the start of December, when a cold batch of Arctic air descended upon the West Coast and brought numerous nights of below-freezing temperatures before finally releasing its chilly grip earlier this week.
“When it’s cold, you’re sleeping an hour at a time, more or less,” he said. “You sleep for an hour and you wake up with something cold on your body and you figure out how to keep that part warm.”
Goddard and several others have been living in tents outside Choices Transitional Home, a facility in View Royal operated by Our Place Society, as they await the renovation of a batch of new rooms within the facility. The work is being done so the accommodations will meet fire regulations.
“Hopefully within the next couple weeks there will be absolutely nobody sleeping outside in tents,” said site manager Clayton Ealey.
Until now, Goddard, who has lived outside Choices for the last month, has simply had to make due with chilly days and even colder nights.
“It’s been difficult trying to stay warm and/or stay dry. We’ve got the temperatures going up and down and at night it drops down pretty cold. It’s a challenge to keep a warm spot in a tent,” he said.
Some reprieve has come in the form of extra blankets supplied by Choices – being able to occasionally make use of a donated space heater has helped, Goddard noted – and tenters have been able to go indoors to warm up for periods of time as well.
“We’re kind of limited to where we can allow people to sleep … obviously if someone wants to come inside and they sit down in a chair and they put their feet up, have a blanket on and fall asleep well we’re not going to do (anything) about that,” Ealey said.
Goddard takes advantage of the opportunity to go indoors from time to time, although this can be problematic for him, as it could mean leaving all of his belongings outside unsupervised. “You’re always conscious about having stuff stolen from you,” he said. “It may not be much, but it’s mine.”
When speaking to the Gazette on Friday, Goddard was informed that the forecast called for warmer weather within a few days. This was welcome news, but he also recognized that warmer weather would bring its share of challenges as well.
“Knowing that now, that makes me feel great. The second part is, now that the cold snap is gone … I’ve got to worry about water,” he said.
Over the weekend, Goddard was in the midst of redoing the tarp over his tent and making sure that his shelter was as watertight as it could be.
“Water is just as damaging, if not more so, than snow.”
Through a difficult stretch, Goddard has found a measure of camaraderie with others who are stuck in the same undesirable situation and has received help maintaining his shelter and putting up a new tarp.
He also noted the generosity and welcoming nature of the surrounding community of View Royal. “I ride a bike and I go out for rides and I get the ‘good mornings’ and ‘hellos’ and ‘good afternoons.’”
Goddard is hopeful he’ll be able to move indoors soon, although it could be another month yet.
“I go day by day. I have to,” he said. “I can’t plan for next week, I have to look at what’s happening in the next 24 (hours), because that’s what’s going to affect my life.”
Christmas at Choices made a little brighter
Choices Transitional Home is hoping to make the holidays as joyful as possible for its residents. Festive decorations around the facility have been up for weeks and staff are planning a holiday celebration and a Christmas dinner over the next few days.
Site manager Clayton Ealey said residents of the surrounding community have been incredibly generous in donating gifts, meaning that Choices residents will get to unwrap presents as well.
“Just the simplest things; they’re just so happy to be able to open something,” he said.
Socks make for especially great gifts for Choices residents, Ealey noted, and items can be donated directly to the facility on Talcott Road.