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Homeless Okanagan family not out of the woods

Homeless Okanagan family still living in the bush, three months after they set up a makeshift campsite due to the lack of affordable housing

An Okanagan family desperate to find affordable housing continues living in the woods, three months after they set up a makeshift campsite.

“We have all had our little hissy fits and nervous breakdowns and cries,” 61-year-old Debbie Hook said.

Hook, together with her son and daughter-in-law and their five children, aged 10 to 20, were forced to live in the woods in the central Okanagan after losing the rental house earlier this year.

The family was given an eviction notice back in April after the landlord decided to move in. They then launched a desperate search for affordable housing without any success.

Global Okanagan featured the family in a news story on Aug. 10.

READ MORE: Okanagan family living in bush due to lack of affordable housing

Since then, the story has received a lot of reaction, and while many people have expressed concern for the family, others have been very hard on them.

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“A lot of people judge a book before ever knowing the inside of the cover,” Hook said.

From online to face-to-face, Hook said the criticism has been hard to deal with.

“They basically condemned my son and daughter-in-law for having the children,” Hook said. “The reports say why are the older children not working? Our children have disabilities.”

The family did not come to the media looking for help. It was brought to Global TV’s attention by an outdoorsman who came across the disturbing scene.

“I came down the third day after it aired, and I was at laundromat, and I had somebody come up and tell me I was the lowest thing on earth for going on begging people for taking care of me, why didn’t I work harder.”

BC Housing has reached out to the family but has so far been unable to help.

With cooler weather on the way and the start of a new school year around the corner, the family is feeling the pressure to find a place to live.

Since Global’s original story, the family has acquired a second trailer which means they no longer need to sleep in tents.

“That puts mom and dad and boys in one, and grandma and the girls in the other,” Hook said.

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They’re now hoping to at least find some land to rent so they can be closer to town, including their jobs and school.

“We have given up trying to find a house or apartment,” Hook said. “So what we are looking for now is maybe someone has a piece of pasture land. We don’t need hook-ups, we don’t need water, we are fully functional.”

Up until a month ago, Hook was working as a care provider for seniors. She’s currently on stress leave due to the current living situation. Her son is a drywaller and is currently working on a construction project in Penticton.