Mavis Hnidy doesn’t want pity but she is so fed up with being robbed she’s made a visual and public plea directly to Chilliwack’s thieves.
“To the people who keep vandalizing my home you are ruining my life!” so begins the message scrawled on a bed sheet, hooked up to cedar hedges in front of her home on the corner of Allard Street and Bernard Avenue.
After months of having trinkets and festive lights stolen, incidents of more serious theft, and vandalism in her neighbourhood around Bernard elementary, Hnidy’s breaking point came Tuesday when her vehicle windows were smashed in her driveway, just days after her mother, who lived with her, died.
The sign Hnidy hung on her cedars points to her income of $700 on disability, and the $300 it cost to fix her car window as well as the $1,000 deductible she would have had to pay for insurance to replace the $2,000 of tools she had stolen out of her shed in December. But she didn’t have it so she lost her tools for good.
She added that she even had to borrow money to pay for her mother’s funeral.
“Please stop ruining my life!” she wrote.
“I’m tired of being ripped off,” Hnidy told The Progress during a chat in her driveway on Wednesday. “I don’t know what to do.”
Since posting the bedsheet sign, people have come by with flowers and chocolates, and there has been an offer to start a GoFundMe page in her name. While The Progress was talking to Hnidy in her driveway, many people stopped to read her sign, in vehicles and on foot. One couple stopped their car, a woman got out and gave her $20. Hnidy adamantly insisted she didn’t want to take the money, but reluctantly did, moving her to tears.
And while the gestures are hard to see as anything but benevolent, Hnidy is embarrassed by the gifts and is clear she doesn’t want pity, she wants the community to rally around and solve the larger problem.
Anger started her front yard movement to act, but it doesn’t take long into a chat before she switches from anger and frustration over those who are stealing, to a measure sympathy.
“Part of me is thinking, sell the house and get as far away as possible from Chilliwack,” she said. “But it’s not just Chilliwack. It’s everywhere.”
She is frustrated with those addicted to drugs who end up stealing from regular citizens, but she understands how impossible it can be to get sober while living on the streets.
“I couldn’t get clean and sober living on the streets, could you?”
She said, too, that the first version of her bed sheet sign was angrier and more aggressive, suggesting as some others have in social media posts, vigilantism and even violence against those living rough.
She thought then, first of the practical consideration that her house might get targeted, but more so about her mother who had just died.
“My mother was my best friend since I was 16,” she said of her anger. “I thought, ‘that’s not rational, you are missing her terribly.’ So, I thought, ‘maybe you can appeal to the human side of them.”
Hnidy’s philosophy is that those addicted need to be forced into treatment, but before that can happen they need to be provided with housing to give them a glimmer of hope.
“My experience is, if you take a hopeless person and give them hope, they’ll flourish.”
Now Hnidy is trying to organize a rally to bring awareness to what’s happening in the community.
“I really do love my community and I’m hoping that what has happened to me and so many others will bring about great change in our community,” she said in a more recent Facebook post.