Father who spent 7 years on the streets of Kelowna explains how he turned his life around

Iain Burns | February 22, 2019 in Kelowna

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A father who lost everything to drugs and alcohol has spoken of his success in turning his life around.

Dean Schaffler was once one of the most recognizable homeless people in Kelowna.

His story shows how almost no-one is immune from a potential life on the streets.

He grew up in a middle-class family in Edmonton. They even had a cabin, a boat and an RV.

But when he made the decision to take cocaine for the first time at the age of 17, he embarked upon a road of disaster.

He spent the next 20 years of his life focused on the drug, ultimately costing him his job, partner and son.

Photo credit: Metro Community

Dean then moved to B.C. hoping for a fresh start, but he and his new partner – who also relied on drugs – fast burned through the $152,000 they raised from the sale of property.

Within five months, the money was all gone and they both had driving convictions.

They came to Kelowna in 2009, where they lived on the streets with their three dogs from 2010 to 2017.

Then, thanks to Metro Community church, Dean found hope once again.

He tried numerous times to get sober but repeatedly failed – until his partner had a close call with death.

The shock – combined with the promise of a home – drove him to sobriety.

He has now been sober for years and even works for Metro Community, serving coffee and dishing out encouragement.

“Metro doesn’t turn their back on people, especially those who’ve been abandoned and rejected,” he said.

He added: “Now, I have keys and alarm codes. I have responsibility for the first time in a long time. I now know that I have people in my corner. The community at Metro remind me of how well I’m doing. I’m trying to show more patience, and grace. I know many people from the street, so it’s tough. I want to do better and be a good example. It’s a good feeling to help people.”

On Saturday, the church hosts its “Coldest Night of the Year” event, designed to raise awareness of homelessness.

More than 30 teams will walk between 2km and 10km to raise cash for Metro Community.

For more, head to www.cnoy.org/kelowna

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