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Editorial: We all care about our community, Squamish

Facing homelessness as a shared challenge: Lessons from Squamish's Coldest Night of the Year fundraising event.
Coldest Night of the Year walkers. The event raised over $78,000 for Squamish Helping Hands Society.

We saw a glimpse of the best of our community on Saturday night.

On Feb. 24, 229 walkers from all walks of life, of various ages, and different political bents and backgrounds walked together for one united cause—to support locals who are unhoused.

The Coldest Night of the Year walk, organized by Squamish Helping Hands, raised more than $80,000 for the society, smashing its $50,000 goal.
“Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude to have had so many members of our community come together for such a wonderful cause,” reads a Squamish Helping Hands post after the event.

“We are very proud to be part of a community who care.”

And that is the thing—so many of us in this town care about those without a home, and about our community. 

But, as with many issues—LNG, the pandemic, old-versus-new Squamish, tourism—residents are talking a lot, but not truly listening to each other.

Everyone impacted by homelessness should be heard: the residents who are unhoused, those who oppose taking down encampments and those who are concerned about the safety and security of the environment and the degradation of certain areas.

No one wants to be cold and wet and unhoused or to have to go to the bathroom outside in public.

No one plans to grow up and suffer addiction or mental illness.

And no one wants to leave the home they work tirelessly to afford and see open drug use, an encampment, trash on trails, or encounter anti-social behaviour.

We all want Squamish to be a safe place to live our best lives.

We. All. Want. That.

Homelessness is a complicated issue—a shelter bed isn’t the answer for all, just as a peanut butter sandwich isn’t going to feed a hungry person with a peanut allergy.

However, solutions are happening in other places, such as in Finland, which has almost eradicated homelessness.

Step one to achieving a local solution is understanding that Squamish is not unique. This isn’t due to our particular politicians, “our” homeless population or our “NIMBY” homeowners. 

The exact same conversations are playing out in communities, literally, all around the globe.

Behind the divisive discourse is the shared emotion of fear: fear of not having a safe place to sleep, fear of being attacked for being homeless, fear of Squamish becoming a place just for the rich, fear of the unknown of encampments, fear of a community that is beset by crime, or of our town devolving to the point we can’t live a good life here.

There is a vulnerability in acknowledging that those on the other side of an issue aren’t different from us, but without that, we won’t get anywhere in tackling homelessness or any other issue. 


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