July 21st, 2024

Blood Tribe renews commitment to run shelter as province funds additional beds

By Lethbridge Herald on February 16, 2024.

Minister Jason Nixon, at left, and Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf, at right, listen to an honour song performed by Old Agency Drum Group members Troy Delaney, Chris Weasel Moccasin and Wiley Weasel Moccasin, on Friday at the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre. Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan

Steffanie Costigan – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre is set to expand by 125 beds thanks to $4 million in funding from the province.

Jason Nixon, minister of seniors, community and social services, made the announcement Friday at the shelter, and signed a memorandum of understanding between the government and Blood Tribe. 

Blood Tribe Department of Health Chairperson and Elder Martin Heavy Head said he’s happy with the Blood Tribe’s decision to continue their agreement to run the Lethbridge Shelter.

“After careful consideration, and review of our engagement with the Lethbridge Homeless Shelter, Blood Tribe Department of Health has agreed to continue with a multi-year agreement to manage the shelter,” said Heavy Head. “We hope that solutions will be found for homelessness and drug dependency and to discontinue the service. It is, however, a reality that homelessness and drug abuse will continue into the foreseeable future. We realize also that we are the best organization to provide the best alternatives for people in this situation.”

Nixon said the province recognized the need to try something different in Lethbridge with homelessness.

“Something had to be done different and the Blackfoot Department of Health stood up and took on what is a big challenge, and (has) done an excellent job.” 

Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf said he is pleased that the Blood Tribe Department of Health is going to continue managing the Lethbridge Shelter. 

“This collaboration is a testament to our commitment to providing essential support for those experiencing homelessness in Lethbridge,” Neudorf said. “We understand the increasing complexity of this issue and are taking substantial steps to address it comprehensively. I am delighted that the Blood Tribe Department of Health will continue to operate the emergency shelter spaces as they have been doing since January 2023.” 

Nixon also acknowledged the need to have Indigenous leadership work with the Indigenous population.

“One of the biggest things that we’ve learned is the need to work with Indigenous communities, to have sometimes Indigenous only shelters, but also to make sure that we have Indigenous leadership, not just a partnership, but actually setting up Indigenous communities to lead inside our largest cities; to be able to help work with this important population. And nowhere is that more apparent than city of Lethbridge,” said Nixon.

Heavy Head said the responsibility the Blood Tribe to provide service with the frontline is significant. 

“As leaders of the Blood Tribe, it is our responsibility to represent the interests and well-being of all Blood Tribe members, regardless of circumstance and location. We’re proud to stand there alongside the foot frontline staff, our partners and our community members today and everyday moving forward. And I also like to add that we’re managing the shelter. We’re trying to provide alternatives for the homeless here in Lethbridge, and mainly because a lot of our members are on the street here in Lethbridge. This is a service that we want to extend out to them.”

Nixon said the Blood Tribe is setting an example for the rest of the province, and even the country, on how a shelter should be operated.

“I truly believe what we’re building down here will be the example to the rest of the province, eventually the example to the rest of the country and maybe even to the world on how we work with homeless populations and true reconciliation with our nation partners. Thank you for that partnership, and rest assured as long as I’m the minister it’s going to continue, and we’re going to continue to do great things together.” 

Neudorf said the government is focusing their efforts on building a society that includes everyone.

“We are dedicated to creating a brighter and more secure future for all of Lethbridge and Alberta, working together to build a society that leaves no one behind.”

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I believe the BTDH has operated the shelter far better than Alpha House and see the results. I am not sure if adding more beds is a good idea after watching increases of homeless flock to other centers when more beds are available. These must only be short term and for emergency sheltering!
There should be zero excuse for people to be hanging out all night on the streets because there is ample housing available. The ones you see out all night are the criminals who commit crimes while out, whether it is prostitution/human trafficking, drug dealing, property crimes/damage, theft, etc. and that needs to be addressed.
I do believe that the BTDH has done a great job operating the shelter now!

Dennis Bremner

“We are dedicated to creating a brighter and more secure future for all of Lethbridge and Alberta, working together to build a society that leaves no one behind.”
I, once again, am the odd man out. I cannot fathom the fact that this is seen as a step forward for Lethbridge. Its a step forward for Indigenous who wish to leave the Reserve because they aren’t getting any help there. Its a step backward for Lethbridge.
So we create another 125 beds, which theoretically will give a bed to everyone that needs one. This in turn will result in the same thing that happened in Medicine Hat, and any individual on Blood, which is a very very large Land Mass will now find good reason to leave the Blood and come to Lethbridge.
Ultimately the result is, we depopulate the Reserve, pulling their youth out and leaving them no blood line to carry on within the reserve. The same thing Residential Schools achieved.
Really not sure why any Indigenous leaders would sign up for this but they have? This is what my plan attempted to avoid. I do not believe this is in the best longterm interest of the Blood and the Blackfoot Nation, but as mentioned, I am the odd man out here!
“Leaves no one behind”
No one but failed business owners, lost jobs, foreclosed homes, massive debt for some, residents who suffer breakins continually. Destroyed property values, a personal property black market….no one left behind?

Last edited 5 months ago by Dennis Bremner

You are not the odd man out Dennis. I too wonder why this facility isn’t on the Blackfoot land. It has been stated that 90% at the shelter are indigenous. Easy to see culturally that’s where it should be.


I do have concerns of increasing shelter size and have always stated this, after watching it only attract more people.
But . . . We need a shelter in Lethbridge to deal with those who are using the city as their area of operations to conduct crimes. With a shelter or without, they will still be here and having the shelter here isn’t an attraction for them to come here. Many are being kicked off their communities, banished because the leadership thinks that is the way to deal with crime.
They need to take some responsibility and start dealing with their issues instead of dumping them on us and then blaming us for how we deal with the issues. They had a shelter on the Blood community and many would not use it, instead they came into Lethbridge. I know because I talked to several people on the streets a couple of years ago and there was nothing for them in their community and the shelter was like a prison they said . . . I always took what they said with a grain of salt though.
Having a shelter here is necessary by law to deal with the issues on our streets. If we didn’t have a space for them, we would have to allow encampments! It is also needed as they move to clean up the streets from the vagrants and loiterers who destroy downtown, legally.
I agree with one thing . . . I am concerned it will only increase the numbers on our streets. That is why I stated “These must only be short term and for emergency sheltering!”