Friends of a homeless man who was found dead in Port Coquitlam Sunday morning say he would still be alive if a much-debated temporary shelter was built.

Irvin Wickens, described by friends as happy-go-lucky, was found in a pathway near the busy intersection of Shaughnessy Street and Lougheed Highway at around 8:15 a.m.

Wickens had been living rough for 25 years. He often lived in the woods along the Coquitlam River, constantly moving camp, as many of the homeless in the area do.

Rob Thiessen, director of the Hope for Freedom Society, got to know Wickens as part of his outreach work. He said Wickens is the seventh homeless person to die in the Tri-Cities this year alone.

"That to me that is unconscionable," he said.

Wickens was invited to appear in a video promoting the "container village," a temporary shelter idea for the Tri-Cities that has been bogged down in bureaucracy and nimbyism.

Those who knew him best say Wickens might still be alive if the facility had been built in his lifetime.

"I'm actually quite pissed at the people who say we don't want this in our neighbourhood, yet at the same time they're saying we don't want the homeless on the street. So is it contradictory to them -- which do you want?" Richard Senft said.

Foul play is not suspected, although Wickens had been hit by a baseball bat in a random assault three weeks ago. Police say the homeless are routinely beaten by youths in the area.

Alcoholism may have been a factor too, but most people on the street believe it was hypothermia.

Insp. Stephen Drolet said he wasn't sure why Wickens didn't go to an overnight shelter on Saturday night. But people who knew him said he struggled with alcohol and had refused shelter in the past.

Friends say Wickens was a terrific singer, often singing about the "green, green grass of home."

"Nice blue eyes when he was singin," one woman remembered. "They would twinkle. I loved that."

An autopsy is expected sometime this week.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger