A local resident says the situation next to Belmar Condos is unacceptable, and their tax money isn’t being applied properly.
“It was so noisy around here,” according to a resident of Belmar Condos who asked to remain anonymous. “They sleep during the day and then they’re up all night. It’s disturbing to look at, you know, I can’t really enjoy sitting out on my balcony. I hear commotions and fighting going on. I look around and all I see is garbage everywhere. My vehicle’s been vandalized once. I know another resident here in the building who had a [car] battery stolen right out of his vehicle.”
The resident says others agree it’s a problem. The encampment has been there for years, and has moved around slightly.
“Myself and others are completely disgusted, with the lack of progress made in disembarking the homeless encampment behind, and beside the Belmar, condominiums in Sechelt,” said the resident’s news tip. “Not sure what the holdup is but the situation has become intolerable.”
The town has put up fences around the property, however, the anonymous resident says people are able to come and go through holes.
“If [the town] could just set them a designated area somewhere, you know, somewhere out of the way where nobody has to look at it… I mean if this mess was in downtown Sechelt, it wouldn’t be there, but because it’s off the beaten track just a little bit and it’s on the power lines and it’s kinda hidden, I don’t think it’s getting attention it needs rectify the problem.”
Some members of the encampment may have moved from the Hightide Avenue encampment that was taken apart in December.
“The bulldozing of that property displaced a lot of people who were sleeping outside and people who were based there so that they would be close to homelessness services— like the food bank and harm reduction services, the overdose prevention site and things like that,” said Sunshine Coast Community Action Team’s Project Coordinator Sean Ramsay. “So one of the reasons they’re basing themselves there is because they’re in close proximity to services they need and use on a daily basis.”
The Sunshine Coast Community Action Team is an advocacy group that works together with Sechelt’s unhoused. Ramsay says they’re not a political party, but a group that allows people to mobilize and come together for peer support.
“There can be a ton of mitigating factors that result in someone sleeping outside or accessing homelessness services,” said Ramsay. “There’d be different reasons for everyone. I’d say one of the biggest issues facing everyone in our society right now is just the increased cost of living and inflation. Those two factors make it difficult for someone who’s living tenuously at best to maintain consistent housing. So those types of factors push people out of doors. I can’t say for certain why someone would choose to live in an encampment, but I can say that on the Sunshine Coast there is a pronounced lack of shelter services. In my opinion shelter services are most needed in the Sechelt area.”
Ramsay says they have housing problems on the Sunshine Coast, with a significant portion of rental homes becoming Airbnbs, getting more money from vacationers than from a renter.
“I think the factors responsible for homelessness… They’re bigger than Sechelt. They’re bigger than the Sunshine Coast and people are facing them everywhere worldwide. I think what’s happening right now is that the Sunshine Coast and Sechelt in particular is kind of facing a pretty huge learning curve in terms of grappling with the crisis as it stands right now. I don’t think the council, district, is prepared at the moment, and I don’t think they were prepared to be facing such a large crisis at this time. I mean, the same can be said for the water shortage situation on the coast, too. It seems like a lack of preparedness and perhaps understanding has created a situation that’s on the verge of spiraling out of control,” said Ramsay.
The Sunshine Coast Community Action team offers ‘smart recovery sessions’ every Monday evening from 7:00-8:00PM at St Hilda’s Sanctuary. Additionally, there’s drop-in sessions Thursday nights at High Tide housing, 5656 High Tide Avenue.
Sechelt’s mayor was contacted for an interview about the encampment but did not respond.
Sechelt relies mostly on BC Housing for homelessness supports, and Sechelt council has spoken to the provincial Minister to set up some sort of “hub” for unhoused people.