Kolee and Fox Evans are new residents to Keremeos, who not long ago would have been categorized as transients.
Fox has been a seasonal resident in Keremeos since 2003, working in the region between February and November.
“I’m and experienced agriculturalist,” he explained, “I’ll pick anything but cherries, and I can do most anything a farm labourer does.” Fox has also worked in landscaping and construction disciplines in the Similkameen.
The couple, who have a six month old baby girl named Azaylea, recently moved to a location on the Bypass Road after Kolee spent the past two years as a transient resident, and fell in love with the area. The two met on Saltspring Island two years ago, when Fox relocated there for the winter months.
“When I met him, he couldn’t stop talking about Keremeos,” Kolee said, “when I got here, I understood why.”
The couple have been listening and reading about the seasonal debate playing out in the village over what to do to resolve the transient issues in the community. They hoped to offer their opinions on the subject as people who have been on both sides of the fence, so to speak – having lived in the community as transients, and also as residents.
“It’s unfair that everyone is painted with the same brush,” Kolee said.
“That’s not fair to those who work.”
Fox has seen the issue as resulting in an increase in difficulty for transients to get work in the area.
“Lots of people come here to work, but a few come in to party – they should be targetted,” he said.
“It’s now a war against transients in general.” Fox said working transients are finding it more and more difficult to get work as a result, noting even those who live here have had trouble finding work over the past five seasons.
Fox agrees with any plans to relocate the campers off the river flats.
“It used to be clean down there,” he said, noting prior to it being designated a campground, it was mostly habituated by workers, who looked after it.
When asked how abusers might be targetted, the pair put forward a number of ideas.
“Police need to make hourly patrols,” Kolee said, “regular morning checks, noting who is working and who is not.” Fox felt that a lack of management was part of the reason the campground effort failed. He figures costs could partly be reclaimed through payment of higher daily fees, which he feels legitimate workers would gladly pay. As for who would pay any costs not covered by fees? That was a question neither could answer.
“Another alternative would be to shut down the campgroun altogether and open a hostel,” Kolee offered.
One of the biggest causes of littering on the river flats was discarded clothing,” Fox said.
“That’s beause there is nowhere to do laundry,” he said. He thinks there may be an opportunity for someone to manage the laundromat in addition to managing a farmworkers campgroun.
“The upstairs portion of the laundromat could be used as a hostel,” Kolee suggested.
“People come back here every year,” Fox said of the transient farmworker population. “They want to put money back into the community – they’ll pay if there is something here for them.”