A 21-year-old man with autism spectrum disorder is recovering after being punched in the face by a person who took offence to the victim’s work at removing anti-shelter leaflets from a fence.
Darlene Doricic said her son, Nate Moats, was biking home along Rivers Trail from his dog-walking job on Monday, Nov. 29, at about 2 p.m. when the assault occurred.
She said Nate stopped to remove leaflets attached to a fence surrounding a homeless shelter site in North Kamloops, at the end of Kingston Avenue, which abuts Rivers Trail and is under the Halston Bridge.
The property is city-owned and will be used for the Moira House shelter, expected to open in early 2022 and be operated by BC Housing.
Doricic said her family supports the need for shelters and is dismayed at the vocal opponents whose opposition she contends is based on fear.
Those opponents have attached pieces of paper to the fencing, with messages including “Do not allow this shelter to be built!”, “The time is now, fight back!”, “This is your neighbourhood, not theirs!” and “Defend yourselves!”
Doricic said she had removed some of those posters previously and told her family about it, which likely spurred Nate to do likewise on his way home on Monday when he was attacked.
“He basically started yelling at my son when he saw that,” Doricic said of the assailant.
“He was yelling and screaming, ‘You psycho! I live here. This is my home,” like that kind of crap. And my son was just trying to get away from him.”
Doricic said as Nate was trying to manoeuvre away on his bike, the man punched him square in the nose, leaving Nate’s face and clothes, and part of his bike, caked in blood.
Nate was travelling north on Rivers Trail toward Westmount and the man who attacked him ran in the same direction, with his two unleashed dogs in tow.
The man was in his 50s, stood about six feet tall and has brown hair and whiskers in his face, He had two little white dogs, unleashed with him. He was wearing a newspaper boy’s-style hat and a camouflage jacket with black on it.
Doricic is hoping the man can be identified for police as he appears to be a regular user of Rivers Trail in the area.
While Nate’s nose does not appear to be broken, it is quite swollen and he is having trouble breathing out of it.
Doricic defends her son’s right to remove the signs from city property.
“They were just hateful,” she said. “They were anti-homeless shelter signs and we live in this community, too. And we know that you can't just put signs up on city property whenever the hell you want. So, last week, when I was walking by with my dog, I saw the signs and it made me angry because it doesn't represent our family living in this community and what we feel — and it was fear-based. So I pulled them down. To me, it’s litter.”
She said her son took his cue from her actions because he agrees that fear-bases stances against the homeless is wrong.
Doricic said her family backs the plan to build the Moira House shelter and other similar initiates elsewhere in the city.
“We want to see this happen. We want to see more initiatives to support, you know, homeless people and getting them in warm places for the winter,” she said. “We want to see this happen. We just disagree with the group that is advocating against this in our community. Fear is so loud and unsubstantiated fear, for whatever reason, is even bloody louder.”
The irony of the situation has not escaped Doricic: "People are worried about homeless people causing crime and then there's this person, who lives in our community, who's actually a criminal — and that's something we should be outraged about, right?”
Kamloops Mounties are investigating the assault. Anybody with information is asked to call the detachment at 259-828-3000 and reference file number 2141604.