Desperate father searches for daughter on Surrey Strip
Published Wednesday, February 7, 2018 5:45PM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 7, 2018 6:57PM PST
Like any caring parent, John Costelloe is desperate to make sure his daughter is safe.
He hasn't seen 29-year-old Reana in more than a year and thinks she might be among some 130 people living in tents along Surrey's "Whalley Strip."
"Just praying that I can see her again today," John said when CTV News followed him as he searched for any sign of his daughter on the notorious stretch of road.
Reana's situation is just one example of a family torn apart by the vicious cycle of homelessness, drug use and crime that has gripped many of those camped along the Strip.
Every day on the sidewalks of 135A Street, the consequences of Metro Vancouver's opioid epidemic are clear to see.
Paramedics responded to more than 570 overdose and poisoning calls there in 2017 amid a province-wide drug use crisis that is estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 1,400 British Columbians in those 12 months.
John says he and his wife fear their daughter will be next.
"We're very worried that she might overdose and die," he said. “Unfortunately, my wife is so upset. Every time we just mention her name, she bursts into tears and cries."
John said his daughter grew up in a loving family that took trips to places such as Hong Kong, New Zealand and Mexico.
As a teenager, however, Reana started using marijuana and later turned to harder drugs, John said.
"This is terrible. I mean, how can you live in a tent when she has a loving home?"
An old friend who volunteers on the Strip recently saw Reana and contacted her parents.
While searching for her, a woman living there led John to a tent she said Reana was staying in, but his daughter wasn't there.
"If you see her, would you please just tell her to call?" he asked the woman. "Even if she just wants to say hello to us. We just want to know she's OK."
John says laws need to change to allow families to force loved ones into drug treatment for a period of time, so they can get "away from the drugs and away from the drug dealers to get them to a point that they can start to reason and think."
He says he's written letters to officials at all levels of government urging them to introduce changes that could help families like his, but hasn't gotten any response.
When CTV News asked the province, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy offered few specifics.
"We're going to be looking at this very complex issue as part of developing a better strategy for mental health and addictions care in B.C.," she said.
In the meantime, John can only hope that next time he visits the Surrey Strip, Reana will be there.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro