In the hopes of a few attendees, perhaps Elijah-lain Beauregard’s candlelight vigil on the evening of Sunday, July 7, could be a milestone in breaking the housed-homeless divide.
Throughout the diverse crowd, people shouted their favourite stories of Eli. From one attendee: “He was a little daredevil!” Another said, “Eli, you touched a few old souls out there.” And from one lady who, admittingly, did not know Eli, she said, “He was loved. That is so beautiful.”
The atmosphere shifted from a sense of hampered joy in remembrance, to melancholic reality when a woman shouted that this could happen to anyone. “Something has to change. Things can change if we all say something.”
Since Eli’s death, his father has emphasized the need for public dialogue regarding homelessness in attempts to negate the odds of such an incident happening again.
“I think by bringing everyone together like this, we break barriers,” Eli’s father Robyn Beauregard said.
Jeanette Fischer lives on the street. She attended the vigil and placed a flag made of tattered yellow fabric and a light brown stick on the ground. On the flag were purple and orange scribbles, articulating her frustration with the stigma that engulfs the homeless population.
“You are sick of homeless people? Well, we are sick of being homeless,” she said.
Before Eli began living in precarious housing, he grew up in Penticton skateboarding, attending school and, as lifelong friend Ayden Chura explained it, being one of the “S—t-disturbing twins.”
“Good or bad: there wasn’t one thing we couldn’t do together,” Chura’s mother laughed and brought her hand to her face, nodded and shook her head all in one motion. “Mom knows,” he said.
Chura and his family attended the vigil at a skate park in Penticton the night prior, on Saturday, July 7, where many of the attendees were figures of Eli’s youth; whether they were teachers, friends, parents of friends and whomever else. Coming to Kelowna, a fair portion of the mourners were from the transient community; a glaring sight in which the contrasting and adjacent roads of Bernard and Leon Avenue drew parallels.
“This is the way it really should be,” Chura said. “You shouldn’t have to sit there and judge somebody about whether they are homeless or not because in all honesty, you really don’t know their story.”
Beauregard said any funds received by donation will go to the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs (OBGC). He and the OBGC may potentially create a space in Eli’s honour, in which teenagers get to decide what activities are available for them. Or as Beauregard explained it, “Whatever it is that kids are into these days that will keep them off the street.
“You might see someone who is down on their life; don’t judge them. They have a family that loves them just as much as you love your family.”