Squamish looks at cracking down on campers
Thomasina Pidgeon has been living in her van off and on for the last 20 years, but now a new bylaw being considered by the District of Squamish is threatening to prohibit camping in public places.
"It is targeting me because I sleep in my van. The bylaw says if you sleep in a van or a tent you’re breaking the law," she told CTV News.
A number of permanent residents in Squamish live in their vehicles. It’s a solution many choose if rents are too high.
"We paid $600 a month when (my daughter) was born. That same place would be $1,600 a month now."
She and a few other van dwellers have set up a petition, asking the district to reconsider, make amendments or change the wording of the bylaw.
"The law that was created is very broad strokes," said Rufio West, another van dweller in Squamish. "It doesn’t provide solutions for those who live here as local residents in their vehicles."
In the peak of the summer time, Mayor Karen Elliott told CTV News Vancouver there could be as many as 3,000 campers in Squamish.
It’s a small minority of them, she said, that "are really starting to cause problems for our community."
Elliott says she’s had complaints from residents that they’ve found garbage and even human waste in their yards.
But she claimed, this isn’t their way to get rid of those who live in vehicles.
"We want to work with our community that live in vans year round. And make sure this is working."
There is a municipal campground that offers spaces for $10 per day.
"If I went there that would be half of my monthly income," Pidgeon said.
She said if it’s the behaviour that’s the problem, the city should make bylaws prohibiting that, rather than the van life style itself.
Elliott said the district has found some "hot spots" that will be enforced more closely by their bylaw officers.
"We're focusing on key areas down in our estuary, along the Mamquam forest service road and in areas where we’re getting complaints downtown."
Pidgeon believes this doesn’t target irresponsible campers or behaviour, it targets people.
She hopes councillors will consider some alternative amendments to the bylaw, and propose different solutions.
Council will vote on the bylaw Tuesday.