For the past four-and-a-half years, Lyn Temple has dedicated herself to providing care to the vulnerable populations of 100 Mile House and Williams Lake.
The local street nurse initially took the job as a change of pace from an almost 20-year career as a public health nurse after graduating from the University College of the Cariboo’s nursing program in 1996.
She retired from the job last week, with no one yet tapped to fill the role.
“I was looking for a bit of a change of scenery and I applied for the street nurse job,” Temple, 63, said. “I’ve met some of the most amazing people. I’m going to miss the people. I had never considered the job before and I just switched it up and I am so happy that I did.”
Her retirement comes as Interior Health is grappling with a surge in overdose cases across the region, including in 100 Mile House where an overdose alert was issued earlier this month, following a recent spike in fatal overdoses. The alert noted some deaths may be linked to a white powder substance, unknown if a stimulant or an opioid. Interior Health also noted there is a continued presence of benzodiazepine and fentanyl in the drug supply in multiple colours and textures.
As a street nurse, Temple’s main job is connecting with people who, for various reasons, were living on the street or engaging in substance abuse. It was easier in Williams Lake to connect with and find clients, she said, from offering coffee to people in Boitanio Park or going to the Salvation Army at lunchtime to sit down and talk with people. She has also provided many naloxone training sessions and worked with both indigenous and other community groups.
While opioid addiction and hardship are still present in 100 Mile House, those using aren’t as easy to find. The best ways to potentially meet people was by volunteering at the 100 Mile House Food Bank or stopping in at the Stemete7uw’i Friendship Centre and the 100 Mile House & District Women’s Centre.
“I think people in 100 Mile aren’t in town as much as in Williams Lake,” Temple said. “They’re just not as visible.”
Temple found that everyone she met had their own struggles and she had to figure out the best way to help on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes she would help them connect people with doctors, dentists, mental health professionals or whatever else they might need. To make these connections she had to be non-judgmental and constructive when dealing with her patients.
“(These are often) people who are trying their best but just don’t have the resources,” she said.
As well as spending time in the communities, Temple offered STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing on an as-needed basis. It was up to her to structure her days.
She noted the red tape holding up projects like affordable housing was one of the most frustrating parts of the job. Running into roadblocks like that could make her feel like she was spinning her wheels, but seeing how community organizations worked to get around that did encourage her.
“I’m not saying I want to swoop in and save people, but I do want to help them and that’s hard sometimes.”
As to why she’s retiring, Temple said she felt it was time to take things a little easier. She still intends to help out in the public health sector and hopes to help with the COVID-19 immunization program in Williams Lake.