District of Squamish clarifies position on temporary use of Municipal Campground

In an effort to recognize and address concerns raised recently by a number of Squamish residents about the current and temporary use of the Municipal Campground on the Brennan Park lands, the District wishes to clarify the terms of the current arrangement as well as the intent for the program currently, and in the future weeks and months.

In June of 2020, as part of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the District identified that some members of the van dwelling community in Squamish were potentially vulnerable due to lack of access to sanitation, services and supports, due to being under-housed. The District had also seen an increase in complaints from residents due to congregations of vans in neighbourhoods that were creating public health concerns due to lack of sanitation and waste collection services.

To address these concerns, and in recognition that shelter and the health and safety of every member of the community is valued, the District introduced a temporary program that allowed monthly use of the Municipal Campground for a reduced rate of $200 per month. This enabled the safe and secure relocation of some of Squamish’s van dwelling residents from residential streets and parking lots, while increasing access to services and supports.

“These are challenging times, and we have had to make many tough decisions in the last seven months about closing public facilities and changing the way we deliver service in the ever-evolving climate of COVID-19,” says District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. “In putting in place the solution at the Municipal Campground, and working with partners to create the Bridge to Housing project at Xwu’nekw Park earlier this spring, we recognized that neither solution was perfect and that there would be issues to work through. However, as government, we needed to keep people safe while also giving us time to work on longer term solutions.”

District staff are working with the campers at the Municipal Campground to create a safe and friendly culture. Public safety is paramount and campground renters found in conflict with the law will be (and have been) evicted immediately. The Squamish RCMP is an important partner in this regard and is helping to support a harmonious environment within the campground and the surrounding neighbourhoods. Residents can report any issues to the RCMP non-emergency line at 604.892.6100 or by calling 9.1.1 if appropriate. 

“In the coming weeks, Under One Roof will open enabling folks in the Bridge to Housing project to transition to this new and permanent facility. Also this fall, we will be engaging with the community on two important pieces of policy – sustainable policy options to manage van dwelling in the community, and continued engagement on the Brennan Park Fields and Master Plan which includes the Municipal Campground. These are great opportunities for the community to weigh in and let us know their thoughts,” continues Elliott.  “In the meantime, I ask for people’s empathy and their patience. These are temporary measures, with safeguards in place, and the public will be invited to provide input before Council receives recommendations and puts longer-term policies into effect.” 

Additional Facts:

  • The Zoning Bylaw was amended in 2018 (Amending Bylaw 2620) to enable a variety of supportive housing options in any zone within Squamish, including Assisted Living, Community Care, Transitional Housing and Emergency Shelter uses. This amendment aims to avoid stigmatizing individuals, and acknowledges that as a community we recognize the humanity in others and continue to work to find housing solutions across the housing spectrum with community partners, the business community and senior government partners.
  • 49 temporary units of housing (Bridge to Housing) were built within a few weeks in April/May Downtown Squamish, adjacent to the Sirocco Buildings, for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness in Squamish during COVID-19. In addition to meals and shelter, residents of this building receive critical supports such as access to addiction and mental-health referrals. This housing solution was created in partnership between the District of Squamish, Government of B.C. and Squamish Helping Hands Society. This is temporary housing until Under One Roof opens later this fall.
  • Decisions being made at the Council table this fall will involve opportunities for public input in advance of longer term policy shifts:
  1. Policy development is underway for a sustainable suite of options to address van dwelling in the community. The public will be invited to provide input prior to decisions being made on longer term policies.
  2. The Brennan Park Fields and Lands Master Plan is being finalized to maximize the best use of the lands and fields surrounding Brennan Park Recreation Centre. Relocation of the campground is being considered as part of this broader plan. Watch for a community survey launching in the coming days to invite input into the draft Master Plan.
  • Municipal Campground amenities contain:
    • 35 single campsites;
    • Portable toilets;
    • Dish washing station and potable water;
    • There is no power, water hook-ups or sani dump;
    • Shower facilities are available at Brennan Park Recreation Centre for a fee of $2 per use;
    • COVID-19 protocols apply and physical distancing is mandatory;
    • Public Works staff maintain the campgrounds on a weekly basis.
  • The District of Squamish retains the right to evict or have removed any party or group acting contrary to any District bylaw, policy or law.

Further information on the temporary use of the Municipal Campground is available here.

September 16, 2020

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Comments

  • mimi Sep 18, 2020 12:34 PM (3 days ago)

    Very grateful to the town for providing a safe place to stay - we work fulltime and pay taxes but in summer live in a van for many reasons. From our perspective as current campground guests, it's very quiet and clean here for the most part and we do our best to pitch in to keep it that way. There are always some people who not only struggle to follow societal norms (like we do, too) but also strugle to follow simple rules, or may have minor or major mental health issues.
    What's the solution? Close the campground? Sanitize society? They (as we all) are people too and have to live somewhere. They may seem like a nuisance to us and to our wealthier neighbors walking by - but in the big picture, they're not the ones creating the real issues we as a town, province, country, world face. Patience, empathy.

  • Colleen H Sep 17, 2020 11:51 AM (4 days ago)

    This morning, within 10m on each side of the campground, I came across 2 abandoned grocery carts and a bike thrown in the creek. Happy to provide photos.

  • Shawn Wentworth Sep 16, 2020 7:10 PM (4 days ago)

    So this change happens with little to know consultation with any of the neighbours and surprise we have residents being hassled and screamed at as they try to walk along the pathway with their kids. Never happened before.

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