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OUR HOMETOWN: Williams Lake homeless outreach worker resigns after 16 years of dedication

Wayne Lucier will be working at S.A.G.E. Trainers beginning Jan. 3, 2023
Wayne Lucier is moving on from his work as a homeless outreach worker in Williams Lake after 16 years with CMHA. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

After 16 years as a dedicated homeless outreach worker in Williams Lake, Wayne Lucier is leaving his position at Canadian Mental Health Association.

Beginning Jan. 3 he will be an employee of S.A.G.E. Trainers, an organization he worked for in the past.

“I was at S.A.G.E. for 10 years a long time ago as a life skills coach, ” he said, adding he worked from Watson Lake all the way down south to Canoe Creek. “I think that is what kept me sane doing outreach work, that I’d been a life-skills coach.”

His health prompted him to resign from the homeless outreach work. When his leg gave out because of sciatica he couldn’t walk and was down for about six months until he had surgery.

“When I came back to work I couldn’t walk like I used to.”

Even though he is retired, he believes he will still keep an eye on the homeless situation in Williams Lake and stop in at the Salvation Army when he is not working to check in on people.

“Some of the guys I was telling I would not be seeing them around too much told me, ‘oh ya we will see you, even if we have to follow you.’ That was kind of cool.”

Lucier’s job as a homeless outreach worker emerged after the province won the bid to host the 2010 Olympics.

At the time a provincial decision was made to try and get as many people off the streets in Vancouver as possible by the time the Olympics opened.

When CMHA secured a contract for Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, Lucier was one of about 12 people from around the province hired and sent to Vancouver for training.

“The best thing they did was not tell us what we had to do, but more or less told us ‘do what you think you have to do,’” he recalled.

One of his first tasks was to go out with Susann Collins from CMHA South Cariboo Branch today, and walk around 100 Mile checking all the homeless camps.

A tough aspect of the job has been realizing some people are judgmental and resistant to having programs for homeless people in their neighbourhoods, he said.

“There are certain things in our lives we are not going to change. People who have mental illness and addictions are the greatest group that make up the homeless. We can’t just kick people to the curb.”

Recalling some of the successes, Lucier said when a fire at the Williams Lake Inn in 2014 forced some people to be rehoused it was a blessing in disguise.

“Some of them actually moved forward because they got some nice housing and moved away from the downtown area. When those things happen it is pretty awesome.”

Thankful he was working for CMHA while doing the homeless outreach, Lucier commented he had “great people” around him who gave him lots of support and were always there for him to talk to.

“I would just like to thank everybody who did help me because this was not a one-person job. All the people who gave me donations of clothing, furniture, gift cards and all around helped me. It was amazing.”

Originally from Manitoba, Lucier moved to Williams Lake in 1974.

When his dad died, he moved his mom, sister and two brothers to Williams Lake. He worked in local mills, ran a garage and worked in the bush.

His wife Linda is retired after working at Cariboo Memorial Hospital for many years as a housekeeper. Their sons Brian and James live and work in Williams Lake.

Lucier sits as a Métis elder on the Indigenous Court in Williams Lake. He enjoys playing guitar and singing, often with his brother Arnold Lucier.

Toward the end of the 16 years working with the homeless, Lucier was beginning to see more elders in dire straights who had retired, had a set budget, but never thought inflation and costs would go so high.

“It is getting scary for some of them,” he said.

READ MORE: Lack of affordable housing concerning for agencies tackling homelessness in Williams Lake

READ MORE: FRENCH CONNECTION: Hamm, Lucier and Burrill make changes

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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