Lance DeBreé is proof that people who are addicted to drugs and living on the street can pick themselves up and change their lives.
DeBreé was known to many in the business community along the troubled highway corridor in Duncan for a number of years, and they recognized that he was really a good person who would likely clean up his life and thrive if given the opportunity.
Warren Kongas, a member of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, went to school with DeBreé and hadn’t seen him for some time before encountering him on the streets in Duncan and was appalled at his condition.
“Lance was bullied and discriminated against when he was young and fell into a life of crime and drugs,” Kongas said.
“He was a shell of a human being at the time when I came across him on the streets. I asked Lance what kinds of drugs he was on and he said he took whatever he could find. He was an angry, drug addicted and homeless man but I told him that I’m not going to give up on him.”
Will Arnold, the owner of Experience Cycling who has taken a leadership role in efforts to clean up the neighbourhood along the highway corridor, said Kongas and local business people worked together to help get DeBreé off the streets and off of drugs.
He said they hired DeBreé to clean up the garbage and drug debris along their storefronts each morning, and he has been working diligently at that every morning, seven days a week, for more than a year.
“Graeme Blackstock, owner of the Duncan Butcher Shop, has also hired Lance and is training him in the trade,” Arnold said.
“Lance has really changed; he has successfully given up drugs and has a home and we’re all really proud of him.”
Blackstock said he has no regrets in hiring DeBreé.
“He’s quite awesome and I’m pleasantly surprised and happy that he has taken to the job so well,” he said.
“Lance likes to keep busy and to learn the skills of a butcher.”
To celebrate and acknowledge DeBreé’s many positive changes in his life, Kongas said he nominated him for a prestigious RCMP Challenge Coin, and was given permission by the RCMP’s hierarchy to do so.
Challenge Coins are given by the RCMP as a mark of appreciation to members of the police units, colleagues and civilians that have assisted police officers as they do their work in communities.
A group of DeBreé’s friends, family members, police officers and business people gathered at Experience Cycling on the morning of Nov. 9 to surprise him with the Challenge Coin and a certificate.
“Lance didn’t know anything about it and I told him to come to my business and that I was going to take him out to breakfast,” Arnold said with a smile as everyone waited for DeBreé to come through the door.
“I received a Challenge Coin as well awhile ago for the work I do in the community and the whole RCMP detachment showed up. I was shocked.”
After DeBreé arrived and was greeted by all those in attendance, Kongas formally presented him with his Challenge Coin.
“There was some concern that with so many of your old acquaintances still on the street, you’d get caught up in that world again, but you never did,” Kongas said with his voice trembling with emotion.
“You’re now a valuable member of the community and we’re all so proud of you.”
Lance’s mother Ro, who was at the ceremony, said she’s exhilarated and relieved that her son changed his life for the better.
“I’m very proud of him, as I’m proud of all my children,” she said.