Trailblazing outreach worker leaving ASK Wellness after 17 years

By Jill Sperling
September 1, 2017 - 4:32pm Updated: September 1, 2017 - 5:34pm

KAMLOOPS — A well known outreach facility in Kamloops is losing one of its most experienced members. 

Ken Salter started working with ASK Wellness 17 years ago, when the organization was referred to as the AIDS Society of Kamloops. 

Salter was originally hired as a prison outreach worker, and witnessed ASK Wellness grow from four staff member to more than 120. 

"It's been quite an interesting journey to see how a very small little non-profit agency can just balloon and balloon over the years, and get bigger and bigger," Salter said. 

ASK Wellness Executive Director, Bob Hughes says Salter has worked with the most disengaged people in the city.

"He literally defined the street outreach services in this community," Hughes said. "He came to the previous ED and said, 'we need to have somebody out on the street working with these people,' and was a trailblazer when it came to working with homeless people, and with folks with addictions." 

Hughes says Salter was the driving force behind the first homeless count in Kamloops in 2005. The count is now conducted annually to gather statistics on homeless populations.

"The information that we got from the homeless count was useful," Salter said, "but the whole idea of doing it for me was to get the volunteers out, so they can see that there's people who live on the river banks, and actually talk to those people."

Salter's work has helped numerous individuals, but it has also become a burden that is increasingly difficult to bear. 

"I feel like we've lost the battle in a way, in the last couple of years, when fentanyl has raised its ugly head," Salter said. 

For that reason, Salter has chosen a new business venture in Burns Lake, on that will take less of an emotional toll. 

"It's a very difficult time to be an outreach worker," Hughes said. "I think that was taking a toll for sure on Ken being out there and not being able to engage a lot of these people that are so entrenched in their addictions, and are angry at the world. 

"I'm happy for him that this is the way, to gracefully say, 'I've had enough of this, and I'm going to go on and do something that's less emotionally challenging.'" 

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