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Homeless

Joe and Glenda Allen
Joe and Glenda Allen's house along the Cottonwood River is now pile of rubble and memories
— image credit: Percy N. Hébert

She flips through the yellowed pages, running a forefinger along the edge of a black-and-white photograph.

“Who’s that handsome guy?” she chides, looking lovingly into his eyes.

“Sure were handsome. Still are.”

In response, he lifts his pale, watery eyes to hers and leans in, kissing her softly on the mouth.

They turn back to the photo album, one of the only salvaged memories from their now-bulldozed home.

It is a home they began building in 1973.

Now, it’s a pile of “garbage” on their Cottonwood property.

Joe and Glenda Allen wish they had been told before officials tore down their red, wood-sided home. Glenda understands it had to be done, but doesn’t see why they weren’t called before almost four decades of memories were washed away.

“Just made a trash heap out of it,” she says.

On Tuesday afternoon (May 17), the Cariboo Regional District confirmed the Allens’ home had been “dismantled for removal from the site.”

Their home had been in jeopardy of sliding into the Cottonwood River and the regional district said its destruction and removal was necessary to “reduce environmental impacts.”

The Allens were evacuated more than a week ago when water levels threatened the integrity and safety of their house.

“You grab the stupidest stuff,” Glenda says, waving a hand at a brightly coloured ornamental frog at the corner of the coffee table in the motel room that for now, is home.

“Sure am glad I thought to grab this.”

She smoothes a hand over the pages, a lifetime of memories smiling back at her from dog-eared corners.

“This is when we started building her,” she says, pointing to a picture showing a wooden frame. In the bottom left corner, in blue scrawled script, it states “1973”.

“She was so well insulated,” Joe says, nodding at the photo.

“Three-pony glass and framed in two-by-sixes, instead of fours.”

Yes, they say, of course they’ll miss their home, but at least they have each other. Married in 1966, the couple — Joe is 94; Glenda is, she says, “in her 70s” — has more than 40 years of marriage together.

As for their future, Glenda says she’s uncertain.

Regional district officials have told her their stay at one of the local motels is “day-by-day.”

“Which is a bit stressful, yes,” Glenda says, shrugging her shoulders and putting a protective arm around her man.

He looks at her adoringly.

Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson and Cariboo Regional District Area B director  Roberta Faust has worked closely with the Allens, first to save their home (see sidebar) and now to ensure Cottonwood property owners are taken care of.

Simpson is confident the Allens will receive proper compensation.

But, until permanent housing is organized, an account has been set up.

Anyone wishing to donate can do so at Integris Credit Union, citing “victims of Quesnel, Hixon, Cottonwood erosion, account number 80232512.”

“Remember that tree?” Glenda says, rubbing the pad of her thumb along the photo’s smooth surface.

Joe peers at it briefly, nods once and smiles.

“I do,” he says.

“It was only a bush when we built her. It was over the roof when we left . . .

“Our little Christmas tree,” she cuts in softly, pulling him in.

“Our little Christmas tree.”

 

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