By Herald on May 11, 2021.
Dale Woodard – Lethbridge Herald
Some local groups are banding together in the hopes of one day having a facility for the city’s vulnerable population in the fight against the ongoing opioid crisis.
On Tuesday afternoon, Alvin Mills of the Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin Renewal Center teamed up with Mark Braverock of Sage Clan to hand out free sandwiches and refreshments to those needing a meal.
As he prepared to hand out the bagged food, Mills said it remains his goal to have a care facility for the vulnerable population and has been talking with the City about making the goal a reality.
“Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin is a Blackfoot word which translates into “Kindness To Others, Caring For Others, Have Pity On Others.” Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin is very significant in the Blackfoot culture. It’s part of our way of life,” said Mills. “So when I formed his organization our mandate has always been to support the at-risk and vulnerable population that are here in Lethbridge. We’re still in the baby steps of working with the City and also working with a couple of entities such as Sage Clan and the Blackfoot Lodge. It has always been my dream to create an after-care facility. I’ve already got a program that is trauma and grief-exclusive as part of the recovery. We’re also going to implement suicide intervention. The program will also have a culture component. So we’re collaborating with the stakeholders in the city and also with Rachel Harder’s office. We can go forth in fighting this opioid crisis. I think all entities that join forces to fight this as it’s overwhelming our population.”
Mills said Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin Renewal Center and Sage Clan are a grassroots organization.
“We reach out to the people and treat them as how people should be treated,” said Mills. “Everybody deserves that dignity and kindness. Just because of the choices we make, we shouldn’t be treated differently.”
Mill said right now they can start addressing the trauma and grief aspect for the vulnerable.
“We know this crisis we’re facing, the numbers are getting higher,” he said. “The situation is dire and we’re out there constantly trying to help the people on the street and if we can create this facility, maybe they’d have a place to go rather than struggling here on the street. We also want to connect them with the resources that are available on the Blood Reserve.”
As such, Mills said they’ve been in talks with the city about acquiring some space.
“They’ve suggested creating an Indigenous Blackfoot Recovery facility to accommodate the high number of Indigenous population who are here in the city. Now we’ll continue talks with the Blackfoot Lodge and Sage Clan,” said Mills. “I’m hoping we see some action within the next month. This way we can try and help the ones struggling. Sage Clan has been out here constantly and we’ve been working together with my organization and now with Blackfoot Lodge coming on board. We’re local and we know the people. So we have that rapport with them already.”
Which made Tuesday afternoon’s outing important, noted Braverock.
“This is just making a connection, connection is a big thing” he said. “We may all be the same race, Blackfoot, which is an advantage and Lethbridge has to take advantage. But in order to make a dent in this a connection has to be made. Also, in addictions and homelessness, it’s the same thing. A connection is a big thing. And that’s what the bagged lunches are.”
Braverock said Sage Clan is out at all hours on the front lines monitoring the situation.
“Even late into the 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. hours,” he said. “We see what’s going on and we see the people who come out. So we have a good perspective. We see who is showing up, too.”
Braverock said COVID brought out a lot of people when the city was in a lockdown.
“Those people you’d see out late at night and in all places of the city, now you’re starting to see them downtown. It’s going to multiply, the number of people. And the real tragic thing is the young people are coming out now, also. So you’re going to see a real escalation in the amount of people using and the amount of activity surrounding the drug trade, the use and the selling of it.”
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