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A soul in need

Conflicting visions on downtown revitalization

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“This summer was a summer from hell,” he says. “People screaming all night. It was awful. I’m finding myself wondering if I can live downtown.”

Outdoor drug use and dealing are obvious to anyone who spends enough time down there after dark. For their part, the RCMP is well aware of it. According to Corporal Jennifer Foulon, each Squamish constable is assigned a policing zone, of which downtown is one.

“All members of Squamish are very well aware of downtown issues,” she says.

Most calls, she added, are reactionary, though proactive work is done when time permits. Further, with drugs and homelessness so inextricably linked, Foulon says the RCMP is supportive of Helping Hands Society, the drop-in and emergency shelter.

And yet, the issue of homelessness seems lost on certain portions of the community. During this week’s all candidates debate, mayoral candidate Terrill Patterson said he would remove all social services from Squamish, as outreach constitutes a magnet to the type of misery many people would rather not see. The audience responded with sustained laughter.

Anderson has what he calls a solution. Called Homes for Less, it’s a project developed by Emily Carr University Industrial Design and UBC Wood Manufacturing students. With $1,500, a 64-sqaure foot unit can be built. Anderson sees a community of these units, all of them built by the very people living within the square footage.

Greg Fischer, president of the BIA, recoils at the suggestion. “If we give them the type of housing that Eric is talking about, they’re just going to burn it, just destroy it.”

He views most instances of homelessness as a lifestyle choice.

“I don’t have the answer, but I don’t think these houses are the way to go,” he says. “If they want help, if they want a roof over their head, then there are places they can go.”

Like Chalmers, Fischer doesn’t draw a complete link between downtown revitalization and social malaise. Unlike Chalmers, he sees developments in the business park as a bigger threat.

“They’re putting everything up in the business park,” he says. “The business park changed from an industrial park to a business park in the past 10 years.”

From the district’s perspective, the business park is an ideal locale for hotels because it’s right off the highway. Further, there’s potential for a knowledge-based industry to take root there.