Living like the rest of us, for a day

If Wayne McFadden could visit the "bone cracker" every week, he would. But the injured horse whisperer can't afford it. McFadden has been working with horses for as long as he can remember, but a swift kick between the

If Wayne McFadden could visit the “bone cracker” every week, he would.

But the injured horse whisperer can’t afford it.

McFadden has been working with horses for as long as he can remember, but a swift kick between the shoulder blades last year put him out of commission.

Too sore to ride, he left Alberta and headed north hoping to get work in the mining industry “running hoe or dozer.”

But McFadden’s too sore.

“Every time I get busted up I get better,” he said.

“But the last month or two it’s finally sinking in – I can’t work or ride.”

On Thursday, McFadden was eating lunch at the Salvation Army shelter.

He’s a regular.

On social assistance since his injury, McFadden lives on $360 a month – his hotel room is covered.

He’s in pain all the time.

But in September, he had a moment’s reprieve.

McFadden attended Whitehorse Connects, a day-long event that sees local businesses offer free services to those without adequate housing or incomes.

That’s where McFadden met the “bone cracker”- a local chiropractor who donated his time for the day.

McFadden walked away pain free.

“He said if it was good to come see him again,” he said.

“But how can I do that?

“He’s $60 a session.”

Seven months later, McFadden gets another chance.

The community is hosting its second Whitehorse Connects event on Monday, March 9.

And McFadden is planning to attend.

There’s going to be an osteopath/physiotherapist there and McFadden wants to see if she can help manage his pain.

Whitehorse Connects “offers some luxuries that those with lower incomes often can’t afford,” said Salvation Army Captain Johanna Sessford.

There will be a hairdresser, an osteopath, a masseuse, a lawyer giving advice and someone offering energy and breath work, said Whitehorse Connects co-ordinator Debbie Thomas.

There will also be people to help with letter and resume writing, there will be clothing to take away and nurses and counsellors will be offering their services.

Nearly 200 people attended the first event in September.

“People came and they stayed all day,” said Thomas.

“It’s not a judgmental environment – we don’t ask questions.

“People felt loved.”

There will be free entertainment all day and a potluck dinner in the evening.

“We encourage everyone to come and bring a dish,” said Thomas.

“It’s about the community recognizing that the poor and homeless are not just one part of society – it can happen to anybody.”

There’s already good community awareness in Whitehorse, added Sessford.

“People from all walks of life, like lawyers and physiotherapists, are all working together to provide these people with things they are not getting.

“It raises the standard and makes people feel like they are cared for.”

But one day of free services isn’t enough, said Salvation Army regular John Fabien.

“I feel like it gives people false hope,” he said.

Fabien attended the last Whitehorse Connects.

“Sure they give you a massage and a pair of boots, but I’m still going back out into the alley,” he said.

The next step is to address the dire need for housing, said Sessford.

“Food, clothing and shelter are basic human rights,” she said.

“Once someone has stable housing they can move forward.”

Whitehorse needs three different types of housing, said Sessford.

It needs basic low-income housing for individuals, couples and families; it needs supported housing for addicts who can’t maintain a place of their own; and it needs transitional housing for people taking steps to get away from alcohol and drugs.

Private businesses, government and social agencies need to work together to make this happen, said Sessford.

At capacity most of the winter, the Salvation Army shelter has to close five hours a day during the week and 12 hours a day on weekends.

It used to be open around the clock, but funding cuts forced the closures, said Sessford.

In a community as caring as Whitehorse, it shouldn’t have to close.

That’s why Whitehorse Connects is important – it makes people realize “that these people are people too,” she said.

It’s truly amazing to sit and talk with people who are really struggling, said Sessford.

“They have so much humour and resilience.”

Think about the setbacks most of us face, she said. Maybe there’s an annoying co-worker or a negative review.

“And think how difficult these road blocks can be. Then you hear the struggles these people have had and it’s amazing how they keep going.

“It’s setback after setback – especially as young children there have been things that have changed the very fibre of their lives – and they are still so kind.

“They would take their only coat off and give it to you, or give you the last bit of change out of their pocket because you gave them a ride home.”

Even those who are sometimes spotted around town in “pretty bad shape have stories to tell,” said Sessford.

“And those stories will break your heart and inspire you.”

Everyone’s welcome to come, hang out and share stories on March 9 at the Old Fire Hall during Whitehorse Connects.

For more information, e-mail, or contact Debbie Thomas at 335-1426.

Contact Genesee Keevil at