October 19th, 2020

Blood Tribe reaching out to off-reserve members


By Lethbridge Herald on April 10, 2020.

Ellie Oka, Lacey Davis and Alvin Mills speak to a group as they hand out bagged lunches this week at Galt Gardens as part of an initiative to help Blood Tribe members living off-reserve during the COVID-19 crisis. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
Blood Tribe EMS and the Bringing the Spirit Home detox centre are reaching out to vulnerable First Nations members living off-reserve in Lethbridge to ensure they have adequate food and support as the coronavirus pandemic severely limits what services they can receive at this time.
“Blood Tribe Emergency Services has recognized the impact that COVID-19 has had on people struggling to provide meals for their families,” says spokesperson and paramedic Ellie Oka, “and with this we will be offering meals to anyone, regardless of resource or circumstance, in our neighbouring community of Lethbridge. We will set up at various locations in Lethbridge two or three times a week, and we hope this provides some relief and lessens the hardship faced by our people. Because, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”
The locations of the food drop-off points will be advertised on the Blood Tribe Emergency Services website weekly.
While the intent is outreach and support to those among the homeless community from the Blood Tribe, Oka says they will not turn anyone away who needs a little extra food support.
“We understand resources are stretched thin across the board in our community, and not just in our community; it’s across Canada,” she says. “We realize there are a lot of our people off reserve that haven’t been able to access those government supports because there are thousands of people applying for them at the same time. We just want our Blood Tribe people know they are not forgotten, but this is not exclusive to First Nations. It’s for everybody.”
Oka says a big part of the initiative is also distributing information alongside a bagged lunch for the people they encounter on the street.
“We always try to work toward getting people into treatment, detox and after-care supports, and provide that information to those who are living on the street and are suffering from substance abuse issues,” she confirms. “However, with this initiative we are not solely focusing on those members of society, it’s everybody as a whole.”
Oka feels the local homeless population in Lethbridge seems to be weathering the COVID-19 storm fairly well at the moment.
“Everybody is in good spirits,” she says. “I think the people we have reached out to so far they have lived this lifestyle for quite some time. Even with limited resources, and limited areas to access food, medical or whatever, it’s business as usual with them. We are trying to provide information on self-isolating even though it is difficult for them to practise self-isolation and regular hand-washing. So we are just working with what we have right now.”
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