Editor’s note: This letter was addressed to Squamish’s mayor and council. It was forwarded to The Chief for publication.
I am a fairly new employee with Squamish Helping Hands Society and I have to say that this is first job I have had in a while that makes me feel good about what I am doing. And what am I doing exactly? I am supporting clients who need access to food and shelter. I am not judging these clients for their past or current situation, I am simply there for them in their moment of need and I hold hope for their future.
I am writing this letter because in such a short time of employment with Helping Hands, I have learned how misunderstood the homeless situation is in Squamish. And I think that people also forget that we are not just a shelter — food recovery is a large part of our job and we do this so that people with lower incomes have access to food.
I feel that the biggest misconception about our clients is that they are out to harm others and wreak havoc in the downtown area or neighborhoods they inhabit. There may be people out there that are up to no good, but for the most part our clients are coming in off the street to stay out of danger. If they are staying with us on a regular basis, then they are inside and are safe. And most of all, our clients have respect for those of us who are there to help them and treat them as humans instead of lepers.
I would say that it is the people who are not accessing the shelter and our services that may be more important to watch out for. If they need help and they are not getting it, then they are more likely to be forced into a lifestyle that is counterproductive to establishing a safe, forward-moving community. That’s not to say that our clients are perfect or that those not using our services are delinquent — my point is simply that you cannot label our clients as the trouble makers of the community.
In the future I would like to see people step out of their pre-conceived assumptions and simply look at some of the more vulnerable people of our community as courageous people, especially those who are brave enough to come forward and say that they need help.
I think the biggest thing that I have realized since working at the shelter is that only one or two things would have to change in my life and I could be on the other side of the counter receiving food instead of serving food. I would not want to be shamed for being in that position so I make it my motto not to shame our clients for their situation.