The brisk temperatures on Saturday night didn’t stop a crowd from gathering outside of Discovery House to 'Shed the Light on Addiction' as a part of their annual fundraising campaign.
Past clients bravely opened up to share their journeys and the benefits the Penticton recovery resource society has given them.
“When I came into this house almost two and a half years ago, it wasn't my choice. I didn't want to go even though I was broken, defeated on the edge of being homeless and jobless. And I thought I was happy by killing myself by using every day. There were days when I wished I would just die because I thought so little of myself. I didn't know anything different because it became a daily routine and seemed to be the normal. That's how horrible addiction is,” one person said.
The young man added that he had planned to just do his 30 to 45 days of the program to make his probation officer and keep him out of jail.
“It took me about three weeks of being homeless, to start to have a clear head when I decided to want to do this for myself. And that's when I started doing the programming that the house laid out and took advantage of it.”
“If it wasn't for Discovery House and the amazing staff that they have, I wouldn't have my family back, I wouldn't have made amazing friends and I wouldn't have had the life I have today. I probably would have overdosed and died a long time ago."
His speech ended with a $1000 donation to the campaign, encouraging others to donate anything they could.
“I owe this house my life,” another man added. “There is a better way for people if they want recovery.”
Another recoveree added his thanks for everything the local non-profit society has done for him.
“I'm just absolutely grateful that I finally find inside myself that desire to live, because I spent 20 years trying to die,” he said. “Discovery House has also taught me that the moment I walk out this door, I can actually hold my head high and be an active participant in society.”
Gord Portman, a local man who turned his life around after helping to rescue two people from a house fire in 2020 took his turn to share. He had been struggling with addiction, but after seeing his image in local news, he realized it was time to get help.
“I was broken and entrenched in addiction,” he said to the crowd.
After completing the Discovery House program, he began volunteering each week and was eventually employed by the society.
He now has 2.5 years of sobriety under his belt and has become a fixture on the streets of Penticton, helping those entrenched in street living and addiction and offering advice, help accessing resources, or just a friendly ear.
“I got my life back. I got my family back. I got a car, I got my license back, and I got good jobs. I got lots of good support and good friends,” Portman said.
Local politicians including South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings, MLA Dan Ashton, Penticton Mayor Julius Bloomfield and Councillors James Miller and Helena Konanz were in attendance, some joining to speak of the great work done by the house.
“It’s just so inspiring to hear the stories from the people that have passed through this place. I think Discovery House is a great name for it [because] of the discoveries they make,” Cannings said.
“It’s really opened my eyes hearing those stories...Let’s ensure Discovery House keeps doing this very important work.”
Discovery House has been able to grow and expand its living spaces over the past years, further providing a safe space for men to continue to live a sober life and be supported.
So far, Discovery House has raised just over $88,000 and has about $65,000 left to raise to reach its goal to fund four 90-day treatment spaces that will subsidize treatment for about 20 men in 2023.
To support the campaign, people can still purchase a Christmas light bulb for $10 or a string of 25 bulbs for $250 to help light their recovery houses, which runs until Dec. 31.