Squamish Chief Story: Pies to Combat Homelessness

Squamish Chief Story: Pies to Combat Homelessness

It’s 10 a.m. on a drizzly Thursday morning at the Klahanie Campground when a sleepy looking couple approaches The Pie Company’s kiosk window and Renee McNeil pops her head out with a wide smile to greet them.

McNeil’s The Pie Company recently set up at the campground located on Highway 99, at the entrance to Squamish. 

The couple, with dishevelled camping hair, orders a meat pie and then heads off back to their camper, pie in hand and chatting happily.

McNeil and her husband, Rob, both Australian transplants, met during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and found they shared a pet peeve – they couldn’t find the meat pies they both missed from their homeland. With this, The Pie Company was soon born. 

These days the pies can be catered for events and are sold at various local farmers’ markets and grocery stores. 

Like many Squamish business owners, the McNeils have a strong philanthropic side. 

They make hiring people with employment challenges, referred from Squamish Helping Hands Society, a priority and have launched a non-profit, the Cutting Barriers Employment and Training Association, to offer culinary training and employment to disadvantaged citizens living in the Sea to Sky Corridor. 

“If you can’t give back, what is the point of any of it?” McNeil said, when asked why she wanted to launch the not-for-profit organization. “I can see myself in so many of these [vulnerable] people and it comes down to opportunities at the end of the day. Maybe that is all some of these people need to get their lives back on track.” 

A fundraiser is planned at The Pie Company’s Klahanie Campground location for Friday, June 30, and 50 per cent of the proceeds will go to Cutting Barriers. 

“We’re going to have some live music, and hopefully it will be a sunny day and we will get people out on the deck with food and drinks and all things good,” McNeil said. 

Cutting Barriers is part of the plans for Under One Roof, the first-of-its-kind community facility proposed for the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue in downtown Squamish. 

The ambitious goal of a one-stop-shop facility incorporating no or low-barrier housing, health care and food services is in the planning stages, but the idea is 

Cutting Barriers will provide all the prepared food service to clients and eventually create and staff a small bakery and café where its graduates would work, according to McNeil. 

“I always wanted to do a chef-based training program,” McNeil said. “So why not pair it up with a real-based opportunity?…. With the food service you have a daily way to work your skill set, you have got lunch service, dinner service.” 

In addition to the District of Squamish, several groups are partnering to create the Under One Roof facility: Squamish Helping Hands Society, the Squamish Food Bank Society, Vancouver Coastal Health, Sea to Sky Community Services, the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society and Cutting Barriers. 

The current Squamish Helping Hands Society shelter, in the old fire hall behind the Squamish Public Library, is long past its prime and not sufficient to meet the needs of the more than 200 homeless in Squamish, said Maureen Mackell, executive director of the society. 

The new facility will provide services for those in need, in a dignified way, and will help ensure people aren’t falling through the cracks, she said. 

“The idea is we are bringing together services and partners… under one roof to make it easier, more streamlined and less likely for a bottleneck anywhere, where people get hung up because there is no housing,” she told The Chief. 

“In this facility we are going to be able to provide food, as well as housing, as well as employment or job training opportunities, as well as contact with partnering agencies.”

Funding for Under One Roof is still being finalized, Mackell said, but will likely come from partnerships with the provincial government, the District, local foundations, and business and private donations. 

The Cutting Barriers fundraiser on June 30 will get underway at 2 p.m. at The Pie Company kiosk in the Klahanie Campground on Squamish River Dyke Road.


@ Copyright 2017 Squamish Chief – http://www.squamishchief.com/news/local-news/pies-to-combat-homelessness-1.20479187