Natasha Allard was in her bathroom at about 10 p.m. on Sept. 28, getting ready for bed, when she heard a noise elsewhere in her Westsyde home.
She left the bathroom, came around the corner and was surprised to see another person in her home — a woman who had entered through an unlocked back door.
“Who are you? What are you doing in my house? What do you want?”Allard asked the intruder, who mumbled something in return, head down and arms crossed, a stance familiar with Allard, who works at Royal Inland Hospital and has interacted with those with addictions for some time.
After a moment, the woman told Allard she needed help, that she was being abused. Allard offered to call the police and paramedics, but told the woman she had to wait outside. The intruder did not want the police called, then asked for a bite to eat as she entered the kitchen.
“And I said, no, I'm calling the cops,” Allard said. “So that's when I had gone back into the bathroom to get my phone. I turned around and she had just done a complete 180. She was no longer this quivering, scared, meek, hurt woman anymore. She was this violent, raging human being. Like, I looked into her face and there was nothing there except anger and violence.”
The intruder then struck Allard in the head with a brick. Allard pushed her out of the way and the two ended up in the dining room, where the intruder stabbed at Allard with a knife, slightly puncturing her back.
Allard finally managed to push the woman out the front door and call the RCMP.
The woman had chosen an opportune time to intrude — Allard’s husband was in Europe at the time, a roommate was out of town and Allard’s guard dog had been put down in August.
Despite the harrowing ordeal, Allard said she feels a bit relieved.
“I feel very fortunate that it's something that happened to me and not something that could have happened to, you know, an elderly couple or people with children,” she said.
Allard said what happened to her is part of a much larger problem in Kamloops, one connected to “prevalent drug use,” homelessness and mental-health issues.
When she moved here at age 13, the city was different, she said.
“While I was growing up, we were free to walk the streets. There wasn't this active threat of violence, of being attacked or mugged or just that overwhelming feeling of feeling unsafe as soon as the sun went down.”
Allard said she is “fortunate and unfortunate” to work in the health-care profession, where she deals with myriad levels of people with street-level issues and sees “the worst of the worst.”
Allard said working people with no addiction or mental-health issues can face being homeless due to affordability problems with renting or buying.
“Then there’s the other part, where people are homeless and addicted and, quite frankly, so many of them don't want help. If you talked to a large majority of them, they're not interested in recovery, they're not interested in rejoining society, they're not interested in what we would consider normal day life,” Allard said. “They're very happy and content doing what they're doing. Not to say that there isn't a a small amount of people that would actively try to recover and rejoin society if the proper resources were available to them.”
Allard said she has seen countless examples of people who have gone into recovery, only to return to the drug-using lifestyle.
“I’ve seen it so many times and it's it's heartbreaking,” she said. “You can't force somebody to want to get help. That’s not just with drugs and homelessness, that's with anything.”
She said the scenes in the ER at Royal Inland Hospital are unnerving.
“We’re literally talking about people that come in, taking up an ambulance, and they've been Narcanned (administered Narcan, a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose). They come into the ER, they're taking care of, they come to and they’re extremely aggressive, extremely violent,” Allard said.
“We have no choice but to release them back out on the streets and an hour later, they’re coming back in another ambulance, again, with another paramedic, with being Narcanned again, with being in the hospital. And then they wake up and they're violent and we release them again and then they come back. People don't understand. They really don't because they've never seen it and it is absolutely horrific to watch.
“We have an actual term for them — frequent flyers — and most of them we know by name.”
Allard feels part of the problem is the polarization of feelings on the issue.
“You're a bleeding heart and these are human beings. These are somebody's brothers, sisters mothers, fathers. And then there's the other side, where people are not looking at these people as human beings anymore. They are like, ‘These people are disgusting. They don't deserve anything, like food clothes, shelter.”
Allard said she can understand both points of view as the problem grows.
She argued many on the compassionate side of the spectrum have not interacted with those in the throes of addiction or, if they had, that interaction were nothing like hers.
“But if you actually dealt with the ones that are so far gone, they're no longer somebody's brother, mother, sister — they are violent and they don't care and they're narcissistic and everything is about them and their world and they will commit violence to get what they need when they need it,” Allard said.
“And then there's the other side of that where, you know, there are people out there, they want to recover, but there are no resources or there's not enough resources to help them get there.”
Compounding the problem, she said, are the challenges facing someone stepping out of recovery, not the least of which is finding affordable housing in a market that is increasingly pricing more and more people out of the equation.
While politicians and health officials debate about solutions, nobody seems to have stumbled upon an answer to the ever-growing problem.
“What is the answer? We talk about human rights and we talk about how important they are for people to have human rights and it is obviously still incredibly important for people to have human rights,”Allard said,
“But you have to deserve to have basic human rights. You can't just go around the community entering people's homes and smacking them over the head with a brick because you're hungry or you want to steal something.”
Allard said her attacker is well known to police and Westsyde residents. She has been photographed casing backyards and has been violent to other people.
“Why is she out in the public?” Allard asked. “It’s so frustrating, We can’t force people to get help, but what is the answer? Clearly she needs help — she's violent, she's a drug user, she's homeless. But she's one of the people that I'm talking about. She doesn't want to recover. She doesn't want help. She doesn't want to be part of society. So how do you force somebody to be in recovery if they're not going to take it seriously?”
Allard said somebody with knowledge of the intruder sent her a photo of the woman who entered her home. Allard said she forwarded it to police. The suspect is an Indigenous female who stands 5-foot-5 and has a thin build. She was wearing a black coat, white jeans and glasses.
Anybody with information is asked to call Kamloops RCMP at 250-828-3000 and reference file 2022-34802.