British Columbia

Whistler's homeless relocated ahead of Olympics

As Olympic organizers in Whistler, B.C., gear up for the 2010 Winter Games in February, the area's homeless are being forced to relocate.

As Olympic organizers in Whistler, B.C., gear up for the 2010 Winter Games in February, the area's homeless are being forced to relocate.

Whistler's homeless usually live in their cars or find shelter in the village's parkades and parking lots. But with the Games around the corner, Olympic organizers are taking over roads and parking lots, displacing them.

That has social services agencies in Squamish, about 40 kilometres south of Whistler, scrambling to provide emergency shelter and help find housing in the area.

Peter Harker is the only homeless outreach worker in the region.

"I think it's uncomfortable for some communities to say there's homeless, when there's an image you want to keep," he said.

"[Squamish has] become a catchment for the homeless in Whistler."

At least two dozen homeless people from Whistler have already relocated to Squamish, where there is an emergency shelter open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The fact they have a safe place to come to, of course it's going to help them," said Melinda Peters, co-ordinator of The Helping Hands Society.

Harker said the Games have actually been good for some of the area's homeless.

"There are a group of people who've found work up in Whistler in the last-minute push to get the Games on the road," he said.

Most of Whistler's homeless are expected to return once the Games are over.