OPINION: Strengthening our Squamish tapestry | Squamish Chief

OPINION: Strengthening our Squamish tapestry

There’s a Basque proverb that translates to, “a thread usually breaks from where it is thinnest.”

While this saying — and the more common idiom “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” — is often used to describe the importance of shoring up those most vulnerable in society.

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But it turns out that those among us who struggle to find housing or with addictions haven’t been the weakest thread in our community’s social fabric — the rest of us have been.

Search through Squamish council minutes and advocates for the homeless have been calling for the same things going back decades. There just wasn’t the will to take the dramatic action needed.

Of course, in recent years we have been more progressive than most communities with the support for Under One Roof, the civic housing hub that is slated to open in October.

But the shock and awe of the pandemic seem to have shaken something else loose and propelled us forward.

The temporary housing at The Bridge, which also includes harm reduction strategies such as the Sea to Sky Community Action Team peer-witnessing program, are signs of what can be done — and quickly — when there is the will.

And so far, the sky hasn’t fallen.

It is thanks to Maureen Mackell, executive director of Squamish Helping Hands, and her tireless advocacy, and the political bravery at muni hall and at the provincial level [BC Housing] that these programs are up and running.

“By providing housing opportunities, it is only going to make things better. We are seeing that right off the bat,” Mackell said of the serenity found for residents and staff at The Bridge.

These supports, which have sprung up in May, like flowers in bloom, along with the newly released Lifeguard app for users, will save lives and make things better for us all.

 “Everybody is always afraid, ‘Oh my gosh, what is going to happen if we house this many people?’ and the answer to that is ‘It is going to be fine. It is going to be OK,” Mackell said.

Squamish is tackling two crises at once: the pandemic, which led to the temporary housing, and the overdose crisis, which ushered in more harm reduction programs.

“It is pretty amazing to see that happening for the first time,” Mackell said. “This is really the time to see and do what it takes to end homelessness in Squamish. I really do think that we are on that track now.”

Squamish residents should be proud of our progressive and unique response to homelessness and the opioid crisis.

Post pandemic, let’s continue to fortify our threads until we have an impenetrable tapestry.

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