A local seniors’ group is raising concerns about the proposed new bylaw that would allow the homeless to camp in local parks.
The seniors group say the bylaw should first go to public hearing before any decision is made.
“High-impact measures such as contained in the bylaw ought to go to a public hearing and not be rushed through during a pandemic,” says Herbert Vesely, the director of the Squamish Seniors Centre Society.
The society is concerned about potential conflicts between homeless campers and seniors who will be taking Tai Chi and art workshops this Summer at the O’Siyam pavilion in Junction Park and using the washrooms there.
The Arts Center Building and the Farmers Market are in or adjacent to this park and may also be impacted, according to Vesely.
Vesely noted that Squamish had trailers at Xwu’nekw Park at the Blind Channel before Helping Hands transitioned to their present facility.
“If council felt we had to do more to accommodate the hard to house why not keep those trailers over the summer?” he says.
“It is our firm belief that there is no need to change bylaw in order to make camping in Municipal parks legal,” he wrote in a letter to the council.
Vesely noted that Victoria and Vancouver were closing their parks for use as homeless shelters, but Squamish Municipal staff recommended “adherence to some nebulous provision of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to shelter (where in the Charter is it?) by doing the exact opposite.”
The bylaw changes that council will discuss today will support homeless people who have a right to shelter on public land with regulations, district says.
The bylaw changes will strengthen the district’s ability to mitigate against environmental and social impacts in the community, especially areas with high-impact history, says Rachel Boguski, communication manager with the district.
“It’s important to keep in mind that the District utilizes a combination of bylaws to regulate behaviour across the community. No single bylaw addresses everything,” Boguski says.