Two tents remain on Crown land near the corner of Hwy 16 and King St., where the Town recently completed a cleanup of the area frequented by homeless people. Most of the other campers have moved on. Thom Barker photo.

Town cleans up homeless camp

Debris has been removed, a fire put out and low-lying branches cut

The town of Smithers has cleaned up an area that was being used by squatters in the greenspace behind Fourth Avenue near the corner of Highway 16 and King Street. Last month council allocated $8,000 for clean up efforts.

At the Sept. 10 Smithers Town Council meeting, when council decided to spend money to clean up the area, a couple of residents expressed their concerns with the homeless camp.

One neighbour advised she found a syringe in her backyard and was worried about the safety of her grandchildren who come over after school, as well as her pet.

She told council she feels uncomfortable in her own home and keeps the doors locked all the time.

Another couple that lives in the area wrote a letter to council about feeling constantly uncomfortable in their own home.

Bylaw officer Matt Davey said the Town has now completed the work.

A contractor came in to clean up debris, including hazardous materials and Davey said anything that looked like it had any kind of value was put into the town’s storage.

Sitka Tree Service also came to clean up some low-lying branches to improve visibility.

“One of the main concerns we had is residents in the area left a fire unattended for some time, and that fire eventually spread into the tree roots and was burning underground,” said Davey.

“It smouldered for some time, I think it took two or three attempts from the fire department to put it out. I think on their last attempt, they deposited three thousand gallons on to the location and put it out.

The fire was just terrible smelling, it smelt like a garbage fire.”

He added neighbours in the area are happy with the results.

There are still a couple of people camping out there and Davey said the town is trying to connect them with the homeless prevention program to find them a suitable rental.

He said the land is Crown land, so short of the residents agreeing to move, there is little the Town can do.

“We hope sooner rather than later we can find a place for them, then we can remove the tents and put them into storage for the winter. Hopefully have everyone safe and sound before the winter comes.”

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