The clean up of a homeless camp hidden by trees in Williams Lake River Valley was necessary according to the Mayor of Williams Lake.
Walt Cobb told Council Tuesday evening that staff have been getting a bit of a hard time because they’ve removed these people following Monday’s clean up after a fire the previous day.
“It is a garbage dump, I’m sorry,” Cobb said.
“We’ve done what we can with the Salvation Army and with Dave Dickson in trying to get people help that need help. We had a fire down there and that’s why they were down there cleaning up, so I’ve got to give the staff credit for doing what they did. They’ve taken some flak for it but we cannot have them in the River Valley.”
“Number one we don’t need a fire, but number two it is not a garbage dump,” Cobb added.
“We have a lot of people that use the valley that walk and trek, and what not and we cannot have that type of garbage dumped down there. So staff is going to do what they can to make sure it is safe for everyone and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Councillor Sheila Boehm said while she agreed with Cobb she said something needs to done about the City’s homelessness.
“They often have nowhere to go and especially if they’re inebriated and there are just different safe places,” she said.
“I think that needs to be worked and often mental health is associated with that.”
Cobb said that staff did what they could do to help those that needed help.
“It’s a complicated situation for sure,” CAO Milo MacDonald said.
“For the record, the clean up that was done by the public works was actually done after the folks who were there abandoned the camp, so once the fire started they had taken off.”
Councilor Marnie Brenner said one concern that had been brought to her was the safety of those who use the River Valley for recreational activities.
“We’ll continue to do what we do and get help for those we can help,” Cobb said.
MacDonald said earlier that he believes recently approved funding for the Situation Table will be able to help provide some structure to be able to provide supports that people need.
“Housing prices have gone up and housing availability have gone down so we’re working hard to make sure that nobody slips through the cracks with all the other social agencies in town,” he said.
Six to seven hours and four dump truck loads later, Director of Municipal Services Gary Muraca told MyCaribooNow that the site was finally cleared of generators, pallets, clothing, weed whackers, garbage, and drug paraphernalia Monday.
“We are not going to let them get established to that level again because it becomes too much of a risk for the City.”
Muraca added the city is aware of three other homeless camps in the area, however, they are nowhere near what this site was and are abiding by having no fires.
“We are not targeting them, we are not looking for them, and we’re hoping to find support for them. This was just more important because there was a fire,” he said.
“We spent a little bit of time prior to this with Interior Health, the Salvation Army, the RCMP, and all the players saying what can we do because we’re really concerned about the vulnerability of our city and the chance of a fire in the River Valley, and we came up with a plan where we had outreach programs go down to the River Valley and speak to these people of our concerns.”
“We offered them garbage cans and to take away their garbage,” Muraca added.
“They said they would be moving out but they never did and a fire lit, so now we’re taking the stance well our worst fears came true so we can’t let it get to this point and hope for the best because this had a chance in a more tinder-dry time of year that could have gotten right up to Tolko’s log yard.”
“Nobody in the City of Williams Lake is heartless and don’t care, but we also have to protect the best interests of everybody in the town.”