By Richard McGuire
Anyone who has spent any time in Osoyoos has probably encountered Vince Sam, a homeless man who can often be seen taking bottles to the recycling depot.
During town parades, he follows the horses with a wheelbarrow and shovel, cleaning up behind them.
In the past, people have tried to find a home with a roof for him – especially in the chilly winter months. But Sam refuses, saying he prefers to sleep outside.
But Sam, now in his mid-50s, is showing signs of aging. He has arthritis in his knees and this is affecting his mobility.
Originally from the Pemberton area, Sam came to Osoyoos as a young foster child.
The three women who run the Osoyoos Gift Cupboard are now trying to find a solution for Sam as winter approaches.
They’ve talked to Sam about his wishes and respect the fact that he doesn’t want a roof and walls. He just wants a safe spot to stay outside.
The Osoyoos Gift Cupboard is a project that just celebrated its first anniversary. It is run by Brenda Dorosz, Gaye Horn and Jen Shiels. It’s a cupboard next to town hall where people can take household items they need. And it is supported by the generosity of Osoyoos residents and businesses.
The three women have taken their project far beyond the little cupboard, tapping into the generosity of the community and their belief in helping one another.
Last winter, they walked through the town handing out about a dozen sleeping bags to homeless people.
When a local couple lost everything in a fire that destroyed their mobile home, the Gift Cupboard women tapped into local generosity to get them back on their feet.
“The residents of this community never cease to amaze me,” said Dorosz at the time. “Whenever somebody needs help, they always come through.”
Dorosz says their attention to Vince is just part of what the three women do.
“We’ve taken it on as a project that expands the Gift Cupboard,” she said.
They’ll be appearing at town council this month to seek a solution that works for everybody – including the town staff who try to keep the town neat and those in the tourism business who want the town to show its best face.
Barb Stephens, the former owner of Yore Movie Store, which closed two years ago, said Sam used to stop by her store almost daily and sometimes the two shed tears together over sad animal films. She’s stayed in touch, though less frequently.
“The community I think looks after him,” Stephens said, adding that there’s a mixture of reactions to him. “I think there’s people who really do have a big heart for him because he’s a very likeable character… He’s just part of our community. He’s our most visible homeless person.”
“Vince is very loveable,” says Dorosz. “He’s our town icon.”