The number of people regularly using Squamish’s only homeless shelter is on the rise. It would spike even further if it weren’t for the centre’s food programs, says the shelter’s executive director.
Over the past year, Squamish Helping Hands Society has recorded 147 unique visitors — people who use the shelter regularly. That’s 29 more regular visitors than last year, Maureen Mackell said. The number of unique stays gives the society a good idea of Squamish’s homeless count, she said.
“It is high. I am not sure why that is,” she said.
If it weren’t for the organization’s food programs, Mackell said the figure would likely be higher. Even with the downturn in the economy, affordable housing is difficult to find, she said. Add to that the monthly food costs and many citizens on disability or fixed-incomes won’t be able to meet their bills, Mackell said.
“Rent is still too high,” she said.
Squamish is missing an important in-between step for homeless people trying to regain their independence, Mackell noted. There are no supportive housing units in town, which help people make the transition.
“We are really recognizing that is a huge gap in our community,” Mackell said.
It’s a flaw Helping Hands aims to fix. One of the society’s long-term goals is to build a centre that incorporates all of its services — and provides self-contained units. The society is currently in the planning stages, Mackell said.
On Saturday (Nov. 3), Helping Hands is throwing its annual fundraising bash, Crave: Dining for Dignity, which will help turn its goals into a reality. The society is transforming the CN Roundhouse and Conference Centre into New Orleans’s famous Bourbon Street.
There will be street performers, artists and the Sea “T” Sky Big Band setting the jazzy mood. Local restaurants will be on hand and will pair their cuisine with B.C. wines and beers.
“The whole idea is we are trying to raise awareness about food access and the street life,” Mackell said.
The party kicks off at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $100, which includes a $50 tax receipt. Tickets can be bought online by visiting www.squamishhelpinghands.ca. They can also be purchased at Helping Hands and at Scotties Liquor Store. For more information visit the website or Squamish Helping Hands Society on Facebook.
“[Crave] is a different type of way to have a good time,” Mackell said of the themed event. “It is really about having a great night.”