The rebranding of Squamish into a “renaissance” or “adventure hub” community can lead to some people being displaced from public spaces which leads to exclusionary environments. During the District efforts to “clean up the streets,” Squamish’s homeless and vehicle residents population have been negatively impacted by an increasing number of No Camping and Private Property signs that remind potential trespassers who belongs. Despite overwhelming opposition, the District ignored requests for inclusive policy for vehicle residents and in 2021, passed bylaw 2829, which outlawed sleeping in a vehicle on public land.
The situation around vehicle residents is not simple. There are those who prefer the simplicity of life in a vehicle, preferring mobility over a fixed location. There are those who consider themselves “precariously housed” yet, refuse shelters. Many can not find housing and/or are saving to buy. The punitive, exclusionary approach only marginalizes any person in a vehicle, regardless of circumstance, to the edges of society.
Bylaw 2829 is an attempt to clean up the streets so developers can sell more property. There is rising inequality, and many long-time residents being priced out by market rate housing and developers looking for a fast cash grab. This is an attack on lifestyles that “don’t contribute enough” to this high-consumption capitalist culture that is killing our earth. The District says that we are a hazard to the environment, yet they permit developments that contradict the true definition of sustainability and social and environmental justice. However, less is more. There is a richness to the semi-nomadic lifestyle that marketing schemes can only dream of. Many of us are incredibly respectful of our surroundings. Living in a house or vehicle are just two ways of being in the world.
By legislating this bylaw, the District of Squamish has ok’d the prejudice and stigma that exists towards those who rely on public land. A person’s value is not related to their property tax value. How did we as a society arrive at the point where people think homeownership and wealth determines who does or does not deserve access to public land?