Robert Galligan is a recovered alcoholic who has done time in jail and who has spent many years living on the street.
He is 55, diabetic and arthritic. He packs a cane on the back of a three-wheel electric bike.
Galligan is known around the Comox Valley as Bob the Bum — and he is a Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society success story.
The non-profit group has arranged housing for him in a one-bedroom suite in Comox, where Bob has resided for several months. His previous residence had been at St. Joseph’s General Hospital, where he wound up after suffering a stroke.
He had fallen off the wagon at a birthday party the night of the stroke. A friend found him unconscious at the bottom of a staircase and called 911. There were no vital signs when Bob arrived at hospital. Doctors restarted his heart but, fearing brain damage, induced a coma. Ten days later, he regained consciousness.
“You can’t get more of a wakeup call than that,” Bob said from a leather recliner in his living room.
Many years ago, Bob had been a paramedic in Edmonton. It was a promising career, but it came to an abrupt halt following a tragic accident in which most of his family died in a highway crash.
He turned to drinking, and was reduced to dumpster-diving in East Vancouver. Since coming to the Valley 14 years ago, he has slept under a walkway, at an abandoned house and in a tent behind Safeway.
Bob has tried living at the Maple Pool Campsite which offers affordable living in RV units. But the arrangement did not work, due in part to the proximity to downtown Courtenay.
He is surrounded by clean-living people at his new digs.
“Nobody here drinks.”
Bob ventures into town once or twice a month. Otherwise, he hangs out at his pad, beach combs and collects bottles.
And drinks coffee.
“Now I’m addicted to coffee instead of beer,” he quipped. “I have a cup an hour.”
Bob has a 24-year-old daughter named Markea, who lives in Edmonton. He has not seen her in 22 years. He also has three grand-daughters, and a foster brother in London, Ont.
His dream is to find his daughter.
“Since I quit drinking, I’ve been able to save a lot of money. I’m hoping to raise money to go to Edmonton to visit my daughter. If I have to, I’m hitchhiking. Whatever it’s going to take to meet her.”
Bob recently found out he is to be a recipient of a Secret Santa, an anonymous program that distributes gifts to those in need.
“All the nurses got to know me the time I was in there (hospital).”
Along with medical staff at St. Joe’s, Bob credits Dawn to Dawn for saving his life.
“This is the second time they found me a place. If it wasn’t for them, the homeless situation in the Valley would be pretty nasty.”
Dawn to Dawn rents apartments at market rates and subsidizes the difference between the rent and the amount a client can pay. Subsidies typically average about $200 a month.
The society operates on donations and grants. It is assisting 23 clients but there are possibly a further 50 people in the Valley who need a home.
Those wishing to donate can send cheques to:
Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society, Unit 6C, 821 Shamrock Pl., Comox, B.C. V9M 4G4.
Donations can also be made online at CanadaHelps.org, or at any branch of the Coastal Community Credit Union.
For more information, visit Dawn to Dawn.org.