Chris Macdonald was troubled by his own difficulty with addiction. (Photo submitted)

Chris Macdonald was troubled by his own difficulty with addiction. (Photo submitted)

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

A man found dead at a government parking lot homeless tent site in Chemainus last week has been identified.

Chris Macdonald, 43, was a strong advocate for the homeless, who connected well with the community despite his own struggles with homelessness and addiction.

Good friend Jenny Naylor confirmed Macdonald’s death on his Facebook page, Power 2 the People.

“We all had love for him,” wrote Naylor. “His struggles are documented. And his work on overcoming the obstacles should be noted.

Related: Here’s where tenting sites for the homeless will be set up in Cowichan

“He was found peacefully in his tent Friday morning at the Fuller Lake Park COVID-19 homeless camp where he was tirelessly working to help the most vulnerable of mid-Island Chemainus, where he hoped he’d be safe – with help from this community where he’d tried to stay the winter in a cart.

“He had friends. And family. Most compassionate, talented, caring, unselfish man I’ll ever meet. I feel sympathy for us all for losing him. And so sad too soon.”

The cause of death is undetermined but under investigation, Andy Watson of the BC Coroners Service said Thursday. Foul play is not suspected.

Misfits Fitness Studio and Healthbar in downtown Chemainus had become one of Macdonald’s connection points with the community.

“I first met Chris last summer having coffee with him in the Healthbar,” noted co-owner Samantha Fincham. “He would come visit most mornings. As winter progressed it got cold and he was homeless, so I would make him breakfast some days and we would chat. He had built this amazing cart that he could pull with a three-wheeler bike. He was working on a patent for his cart and wanted to make it available to all homeless people. It made my heart happy.”

Fincham said Macdonald was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the service and told her he had turned to drugs to deal with it.

“He was clean and sober when he hung out with me but I know recently he had stated in his always candid and transparent Facebook page that he had used again and was sad and angry with himself. A week later, he had stated he was excited to help facilitate the homeless camp at Fuller Lake, and felt a sense of fulfillment helping people. The world has lost a bright spark and force to be reckoned with.”

John Horn, co-chair of the COVID-19 Vulnerable Population Cowichan Task Force in charge of the family cluster tent site, said Macdonald’s death was cause for reflection.

“At the very start he became involved in helping us set up the tents,” Horn said. “It’s a sobering reminder of how vulnerable people can be. We think maybe we could have done something different.”

The camp is one of five set up in the Cowichan Valley until the end of June to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the homeless community. The Fuller Lake camp, in particular, came under fire from neighbours who said they were not told about the plans until the last minute.

Related: Resident concerns abundant over Fuller Lake Arena parking lot homeless tent site

Horn noted there are currently five people staying there. A couple of RV owners who’d been parked around town were invited to set up there as well.

Identification of the site was done in direct response to a provincial government call through BC Housing to assist vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 crisis. On-the-ground service providers such as Cowichan Neighbourhood House helped select the individuals to be temporarily housed there. The sites are staffed by overnight security, with checks during the day. Horn said Island Health provided a Community Outreach and Assessment team to provide and encourage alternative therapies for addicts.

Also referred to as Cart Chris, Macdonald was well-known beyond Chemainus, but especially with the street family in Campbell River. His own Facebook posts documented the personal challenges he was facing.

On May 4, he wrote, “as you are all probably well aware, I returned to addiction for a while. I won’t try to explain, it sounds too much like trying to make excuses, even to me. It should be said that I am now sober again and have been for a couple of months. All I know is that I’ve been avoiding this website (Facebook) for all the wrong reasons and so here I am.

“If I could ask a favour that is not owed to me, it would be this. Please don’t judge me for what has happened, only what I’m doing about it.”

On Feb. 6, Macdonald had been going through a much darker period.

”I’ve allowed my sick mind to lie me into a hole again and I know the only way out is to stop digging,” he wrote. “So I face it no matter what the cost because I know that sobriety without honesty is no stability at all. I need treatment and it doesn’t exist for people like me and so I’m committed to my path of creating it.

“I’ve made my bed and I have to lie in it. My sick mind wants to blame everyone but me. My poor Dad. I can’t wallow in this but I know I have to learn and grow up. I also know that letting others control me and take all my time and resources for themselves while telling me it’s for me is not the answer.

“If I let those people have that power over me then I am just as guilty as they are. Yet so many people have helped me and been there for me it’s hard not to let them break me just to make them feel better. That won’t do anyone any good, least of all me.

“I’ve put myself and everything I’ve worked for in jeopardy and all I can do is keep trying and hope I have the strength to get back to me. I’ve made mistakes but they are just mistakes and I’m going to learn and grow.”

addictionsCoronavirusHomelessness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Chris Macdonald had become quite an ambassador for the homeless community through his numerous Facebook posts and conversations with the public. (Photo submitted)

Chris Macdonald had become quite an ambassador for the homeless community through his numerous Facebook posts and conversations with the public. (Photo submitted)

The Fuller Lake Arena parking lot homeless tenting enclosure looking north. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The Fuller Lake Arena parking lot homeless tenting enclosure looking north. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Just Posted

The Mann family lived in a coach house attached to the old stables – which once stood across from where the beer bottles were found – from about 1911 to the '30s. This historical photograph shows members of the Mann family passing around a beer bottle similar to the ones found recently. (Photos courtesy Cindy MacDougall)
Cheers to history: 100-year-old beer bottles unearthed at Royal Roads University

Four bottles from Victoria Brewing Co., Silver Springs Brewery date back to early 1900s

Tighe Archer with a Winter Tree that he cut and assembled in Esquimalt High wood shop. Students in ten high school wood shops are cutting the raw materials and packaging them into kits that are delivered to Grade 3 and 4 elementary classes in the district to assemble. 
(Lindsay Johnson Photo)
Greater Victoria high schoolers cut Winter Trees for Grade 3 classes

Apprenticing carpentry students bring a little season to younger peers

Evelyn Turner, Jen Rashleigh and Steve Duck with Circular Farm and Food: Vancouver Island stand outside the Sandown Agricultural Lands, future site of the Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture. North Saanich council is considering a draft agreement with the future operators for final approval Monday. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich close to inking final agreement with Sandown operators

Future operators of Sandown Agricultural Lands have confidence in their vision

A Colwood couple has set up over 140 Christmas inflatable decorations around their property at 555 Girdou Rd. The home is lit with Christmas music playing from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Colwood house decorated to the nines with Christmas inflatables

Display on Girou Road open to spectators from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Victoria for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

Most Read