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Sunday

December 21, 2008 (Vol. 33 No. 153)

Care free

Alone and homeless, Ryan Ashe appreciates his lot in life. He also welcomes conversation – just don’t try to change him.


Sunday, December 21, 2008 Peace Arch News

Man on the street

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Tricia Leslie

H

Staff Reporter

e cups his hands around a match to protect the flame, and lights his hand-rolled cigarette. His fingers are caked with filth, dry and cracked, and his nails are long and dirty. Ensconced in several layers of warm winter clothing, Ryan Ashe enjoys his smoke as he sits in the sun at Hillcrest Mall. Many residents on the Semiahmoo Peninsula know of him. He has lived on White Rock’s streets for several years, and despite the recent snow and frigid temperatures, there is nowhere else he’d rather be. “The outdoors is beautiful,” Ryan says. “The air is fresher. I like it out here.” The homeless living has taken its toll on his body – and hygiene. His skin is ruddy and rough. His hair and beard are long and unkempt, and he’s missing many teeth. But the barrel-chested man has remarkable blue eyes that sparkle when he is happy, which seems to be most of the time. He says he has renamed himself Spike Dice. His nickname is Smiley. RYAN, 52, didn’t always live on the street. His younger sister, who preferred to remain unnamed, says he was born in North Vancouver. Sunday He has lived in several areas of the province, from Kamloops to the Shuswap, and throughout the Lower Mainland, including North Delta and Surrey. Growing up, he and their half-brother were typical boys, spoiled by a father who, Ryan’s sister says, thought women should do all the chores. Ryan worked in construction and, after getting his licence, in real estate. His sister says he had some problems with alcohol, which likely didn’t help his only marriage. He and his wife had a son, but Ryan’s sister doesn’t think he sees either of them much, if at all, anymore. Ryan drove his car off a highway overpass about 19 years ago, and that crash caused severe injuries to his back and head. “After that, he just went downhill,” she says. “He definitely changed after the accident... he started putting cardboard up

December 21, 2008 (Vol. 33 No. 153)

Brian Giebelhaus photo

Ryan Ashe, a familiar sight on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, rolls a fresh cigarette at Hillcrest Mall, surrounded by his belongings. on the windows.” Ryan was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His father hired a lawyer, and the family had him committed to an institution. The treatment helped, his sister says. Ryan’s behaviour and hygiene improved when he took all the pills he was prescribed. But taking pills is not something Ryan likes to do. TUCKED IN the doorway of an office building in White Rock’s Town Centre the day after the area’s first major snowfall last week, Ryan wakes up to a fresh, hot cup of black coffee offered by a visitor. His belongings – stored in several bags and suitcases and a huge steamer trunk – are all strapped together on a dolly, with a chair fronting the entire setup. When he sleeps, he covers his belongings with a tarpaulin and blocks himself in the doorway, so his gear deflects the wind and snow. Then he piles layer upon layer of blankets and sleeping bags – about five inches thick – and tucks himself in, pulling a tarp over his cocoon. “I’m just like a little bug in a rug in there,” he says with a gap-toothed grin.

Care free

Alone and homeless, Ryan Ashe appreciates his lot in life. He also welcomes conversation – just don’t try to change him.

COVER STORY

Sometimes, Ryan makes perfect sense to those who stop by for a chat. Other times, less so. But on this wintry morning, his comments are more sharp and articulate than in previous visits, and he talks about the time he was institutionalized. “They put me in a cage after my car accident... I didn’t like it,” he says. “They gave me pills and more pills – I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t do anything. They kept upping the prescription. Finally, I reported them to the police and they didn’t give me any more drugs.” Ryan says he has been eligible for disability since 1988, but adds he is still not getting all the support he is entitled to. He freely talks of his fears of being decapitated – and of the monitoring device he says the government put in his left ankle – before bringing up last week’s gondola crash on Blackcomb mountain. Ryan remembers riding the Grouse Mountain gondola years ago, and says those contraptions scare him. And he questions if the gondola mishap was really due to ice buildup on the tower. “Let’s hope it’s not terrorists,” he says. “With the Olympics coming, we have to watch out for those kinds of things.” Ryan has strong opinions about criminals and drug addicts – “they’re bad people” – and confesses he sometimes worries about the intentions of others.

He’s been threatened with sticks before, he says. But when the police or outreach workers come by to check on him, he always tells them he prefers to be exactly where he is. White Rock RCMP Const. Janelle Canning knows this first-hand. “We often check on him. With the cold weather lately, we have offered him the opportunity to go to the cold-weather shelter, but he never wants our help,” she says. “He’s happy that way.” Ryan’s sister agrees. “He’s probably happier in some ways than me,” she says. She still sees and speaks to her brother from time to time, but says you cannot help people who do not want to be helped. Ryan once had an apartment on Martin Street in White Rock, but could not keep it, as he would not stay on medication. “He was fine if he was taking his pills. If not, he’d start dragging trees inside – he’d start bringing the outdoors in.” Ryan really is happier in his own reality, his sister says, a reality which “is not ours.” She says people in White Rock treat him well, and that whenever she does see him, he is usually talking to somebody. He has become somewhat of a fixture in this community, she notes, but emphasizes you cannot force people to take pills if they do not want to. “It’s not for me to force my standards on ! see next page


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Peace Arch News Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ryan welcomes conversation... with no strings attached ! from previous page him... he’ll just do what he wants anyway. And that’s his choice,” she says. Despite last week’s bitter cold and snow – with more expected today and Monday – Ryan concentrates on just surviving, the same as always. Although he says he has everything he needs, Ryan’s sister suggests he would probably appreciate a storage shed or a locker – especially with Christmas just days away – so he can have a place to go when it’s wet, and a place to keep his things. Otherwise, he is complete. TUCKED INTO an undercover area at Hillcrest Mall not long after sunset, Ryan drinks coffee from his thermos and prepares for the night. One passerby, on her way out of a drug store after filling a prescription, brings him a plate of hot food. Another hands him money. A man tries to talk Ryan into trying the First United Church cold-weather shelter – where Rev. Joan McMurtry says there is no preaching or judging – but finally gives up, and hands him $10 and change. He is rewarded with a sincere “thank you.” McMurtry’s shelter, run in partnership with Hyland House, has been operating

Brian Giebelhaus photo

Ryan Ashe, cheerful as usual.

since last Sunday, with two to five people using it each night. Because of the forecast, volunteers expect it will stay open as long as it is cold. While Ryan is appreciative of food and money offered to him, he believes the people trying to get him inside and warm interfere with his aura. He says he does not want to go to a shelter because he doesn’t want to catch any “social disease” from other people. He is constantly wary and concerned about what people might think of him, the opinions they form, and – for example – how any article resulting from his interview

with a visiting journalist might turn out. Ryan knows Christmas is near, but, like the cold weather, he says it makes no difference to him. “It’s just another day, like any other,” he says. “I’ll get up, grab some coffee, eat and sleep... I don’t celebrate those things anymore.” He speaks his opinion – on subjects ranging from the government to the economy to God – then shows a scar on his hand, where he says doctors branded him years ago. On this particular night, the last of a series of interviews, he is in a bit of a hurry. He wants to fill his thermos with hot coffee before a local store closes at 6 p.m.

BATHROOM RENOVATIONS

He says he never likes to disclose where he sleeps, and offers only that he lives “in the shadow of the Bosa towers” and that “I prefer being in my cocoon” to any shelter. Ryan wants everyone to know he is content on the street, no matter the weather. Mostly, he just wants to be left unchallenged. He does not want to be pushed into something he doesn’t want. He does like chatting with people, but not if they have a hidden agenda, like getting him inside, he says. “Let’s just say I’m very comfortable where I am,” he says, exhaling cigarette smoke and reaching for his tobacco pouch to start rolling another. “I’d rather be here than anywhere else.”

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E N G I N E E R I N G D E PA R T M E N T

Snow and Ice Control on Surrey Roads

If snow continues to fall and conditions worsen on arterial roads, resources and equipment may revert back to clearing First Priority routes. Please use extreme caution when driving in adverse weather conditions. Under severe conditions stay off the roads altogether if possible, particularly during the morning and/or afternoon rush hours.

196 ST

192 ST

184 ST

176 ST

168 ST

160 ST

152 ST

144 ST

136 ST

96 AVE

96 AVE

88 AVE

88 AVE

80 AVE

80 AVE

72 AVE

72 AVE

64 AVE

64 AVE

DELTA

56 AVE

56 AVE LANGLEY

48 AVE

48 AVE

40 AVE

40 AVE

32 AVE

32 AVE

24 AVE

24 AVE

16 AVE

16 AVE

8 AVE

8 AVE

196 ST

192 ST

184 ST

176 ST

WHITE ROCK

168 ST

0 AVE

Drainage Systems If you are aware that a catch basin exists in front of your property, please help us by ensuring to keep it clear especially during melting conditions. Blocked catch basins may result in excess accumulation of water along the road area, a situation that could become dangerous if it subsequently freezes. It may also result in flooding of adjacently properties depending on the extent of the blockage and the amount of melting snow.

128 ST

104 AVE

160 ST

• Third Priority Routes are defined as all remaining local residential roads. Third Priority Routes will only be maintained after all First and Second Priority routes are completed and driving conditions are deemed to be safe. The General Manager of Engineering uses his discretion in determining if third priority work is required. Third Priority work is carried out during normal work hours only.

With regards to garbage & recycling collection during snow events, residents must ensure not to place their waste receptacles on the roadway where snow plowing may take place. Also, please note that prolonged snowfall combined with icy conditions may result in delayed garbage and recycling collection. . Should this occur, the City will make every effort to resume collection the following day, or allow residents to place double their weekly limit at curbside the following week.

104 AVE

152 ST

• Second Priority Routes are defined as local connector roads in residential subdivisions. These roads are typically over 200 meters in length and connect local traffic with either an arterial or major collector roadway. All Second Priority work is performed during normal work hours only.

Garbage & Recycling Services during snow events

112 AVE

144 ST

Second and Third Priority Routes: Snow and ice management operations continue onto Second and Third Priority Routes only after adverse weather conditions subside and all First Priority routes are cleared for safe motor vehicle passage. During short duration snow storms second and third priority routes rarely receive service due to the time required to address first priority / major routes.

Please note that during snow removal operations, the snow is plowed toward the road-edge. Accordingly, this may result in some driveways and/or sidewalks being blocked by the plowed snow. We apologize for this inconvenience; however, in some cases this is unavoidable. Should this occur along your property frontage, we ask that you remove the snow by shoveling it back onto the adjacent snow piles (don’t shovel it back onto the middle of the roadway).

112 AVE

136 ST

24 hour sanding and salting operations are carriedout on First Priority Routes as long as adverse weather or driving conditions exist. Snow plowing operations commence once snow accumulation reaches 100 mm (4 inches).

PITT MEADOWS NEW WESTMINSTER

128 ST

First Priority: Our main efforts focus on First Priority routes, defined as; Arterial Roads, Major Collector Roads, Bus Routes and roads with steep hills (regardless of road classification).

To ensure passage of City snowplows on your street, we ask that you refrain from parking your vehicle along the curb during snowfalls. If this is not possible, we ask that you please make an attempt at coordinating efforts with your neighbours to park vehicles along the same side of the street within your neighbourhood.

Finally, for your safety and the safety of others, please remember to clear snow and ice from the sidewalk fronting your property and from your pathways. 120 ST

Between late fall and early spring, the City carries out snow and ice operations for its streets on a priority basis.

Excessive vehicular traffic on the roadway during severe conditions is dangerous and it inhibits effective snow removal operations resulting in lengthy commute times.

120 ST

As winter approaches we all need to be extra cautious of slippery road conditions due to snow and ice.

0 AVE

Thank you for your patience, cooperation and understanding. If you have any inquiries regarding the City’s Snow & Ice Control Operations, please contact the City of Surrey’s EngineeringOperations Division at 604-591-4152.

www.surrey.ca

Man on the street  

Peace Arch News' Dec. 21 cover story on White Rock homeless man Ryan Ashe.

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