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Squamish council receives feedback on encampment behind Under One Roof

District of Squamish staff say the muni is currently engaging with the community, BC Housing and Squamish Helping Hands regarding the folks living in tents behind the building.

A couple of Squamish residents spoke to the council about the people living in tents behind Under One Roof, while municipal staff shared how the District is currently navigating the matter.

Local Sarah Stewart first spoke to council at the Feb. 6 meeting on behalf of a few residents present in council chambers about their concerns with people living in tents behind Under One Roof. 

Previously, The Squamish Chief reported on some of these concerns among residents in the neighbourhood and spoke with numerous parties involved.

At the council meeting, Stewart spoke of a "deteriorating situation" that has "negatively impacted our quality of life," while also noting safety concerns for the residents living behind Under One Roof and the neighbourhood as a whole. 

Stewart recalled how portable housing was used during COVID-19 to help those who were unhoused and asked the District to consider using resources to find more permanent solutions.

Another resident, Amanda Graves, urged council to ensure that those experiencing homelessness were "offered a seat at the table and that their voices are uplifted and heard" when it comes to decision-making.

"I believe excluding individuals who are unhoused from conversations about potential solutions is unlikely to lead to any effective or humane resolution," she said.

Council unanimously voted to receive both submissions. Council members also addressed the complexity while acknowledging that deeper conversations are needed.

"This is a really challenging way to have this community conversation and we don't have all the voices at the table to find a solution here tonight, but I will guarantee that we are continuing to work on it," said Coun. Jenna Stoner.

"I completely agree that the conversation needs to be one where all members impacted, who want to be involved, can be involved and engaged," said Coun. Lauren Greenlaw. "The last thing I want to see is a solution that comes down from this table from a bunch of people who don't actually know what they're talking about."

Megan Latimer, the District's public safety general manager, said a series of tasks are currently being taken on by municipal staff. 

Latimer said bylaw officers are conducting multiple, daily patrols to explain daytime shelter restrictions, as well being involved with weekly clean-ups alongside Squamish Helping Hands Society and public works staff. Latimer noted that during the daytime, bylaw officers often have to leave notices when people are not there.

"The District does continue to work with BC Housing, Helping Hands and other community partners, again to find some better long-term solutions and try to manage the impacts there," she said.

In previous reporting by The Chief, one resident living behind Under One Roof hoped the District could find a temporary camping area, but the District said that option was not currently a part of the long-term strategy. 

The Squamish Chief counted approximately five tents at the time. Lori Pyne, Under One Roof's executive director, previously said the organization continues to work closely with the District, BC Housing and the community for long-term solutions.

As part of her submission, Stewart forwarded an online petition called "Remove Squamish Tent City."

Coun. John French said he disagreed with calling it a "tent city" stating he thought "encampment" was more appropriate. 


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