WHAT happened to a homeless man in the days leading up to his death in North Vancouver this week isn't known yet.
But the story of others who are still struggling on the streets is all-too familiar for those who try to help them overcome almost overwhelming odds.
Although he didn't appear to have set up camp, the area where the man's body was found near the railroad tracks and the Low Level Road on Thursday is home to probably a dozen people at least part of the time, said Geoff Bodnarek, a homeless outreach worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
"At times I feel overwhelmed with the case load," said Bodnarek. On the day the man's body was found, Bodnarek - just one of a number of outreach workers in the community - had 17 messages on his office phone and another seven on his cellphone, either from or about homeless people needing help.
He says he worries about a number of his clients. The man found Thursday is the second homeless person to die outside in a little more than a month on the North Shore.
In January, 53 year-old Doug Lalonde died when the abandoned shipping container he was camping in caught fire. That happened the same day Lalonde learned he'd been turned down by the government for a disability allowance - which would have boosted his support payments from $235 to $535 per month.
Getting turned down is a common scenario, said Bodnarek. But he said he tells clients not to give up - and helps them through an appeal process that is often more successful.
Those seeking housing face a daunting task. Bodnarek compiles lists of housing available on the North Shore every week. For housing that isn't shared, $400 a month is the bottom price possible, said Bodnarek. The welfare shelter allowance is $375 a month.
Most homeless people have to supplement their welfare cheques with other income from sources like bottling. A nearby bottling depot is one the reasons people are drawn to the area where the homeless man's body was found Thursday. Bodnarek said he encourages people to go to shelters, where they can access services.
But the reality is the North Shore Lookout Emergency Shelter is almost always full. Average stays remain around a month, said Dave Newberry, community liaison worker at the shelter.
So far, the man found Thursday hasn't been identified by either police or local outreach workers, leading to speculation he may have come over to the North Shore from the Downtown Eastside. That's an increasingly common scenario as downtown gentrification reduces available housing there and pushes the homeless farther afield, said Bodnarek.
"Sometimes people end up feeling safe here because it's not Vancouver," he said. "Sometimes they'd rather be outside than in a bedbug-infested hotel on the Downtown Eastside."