June 19th, 2024

The Watch celebrates five years of serving the city

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on May 31, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Members of The Watch celebrate their fifth anniversary of service by sharing a barbecue on Thursday at Galt Gardens for members of the community who live and work in the downtown area.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

To celebrate their fifth anniversary The Watch hosted a barbecue Thursday in Galt Gardens, sharing the lunch hour with those living and working in the downtown area.

For the past five years, Watch volunteers and employees have worked to provide an additional layer of safety to citizens in downtown, including business owners, the public and members of the vulnerable population.

Shane Kissinger, manager of The Watch, explained that their anniversary was actually on May 1, but they waited for good weather to be able to have the barbecue.

“The reason I wanted to have it in the park was for the at-risk community that we work with, in order to thank them for allowing us to walk amongst them and be in this relationship with them,” said Kissinger.

He said they treat them quite well and they wanted to return the favour by providing them with some food.

In terms of his team, Kissinger explained The Watch is comprised of full-time employees and part-time employees. And volunteers.

“I have 17 volunteers and we’re just going through the process right now to recruit volunteers,” said Kissinger.

The ideal number of members for the program to function successfully ranges from 25 to 30, as Kissinger believes a higher number might send the wrong message.

“More than that it’s just too many of us on the street and we might look intimidating,” said Kissinger.

He explains the other reason for that range is to have a ratio of one full-time person per five volunteers.

When speaking about how well the program has worked, Kissinger said it depends who that question was asked of.

I think in general the business owners like us in the downtown core, the at risk population always were professional and safe and were there every single day 12 hours a day,” said Kissinger.

Since its inception in 2019, volunteers have completed the equivalent to almost 19,000 volunteer hours. The Watch assisted in nearly 32,000 events, the majority of which are public service calls including wellness checks, safe walks, arranging transportation for vulnerable people, facilitating needle pick-ups and deployment of Narcan to overdose victims.

“To date we’ve done over 200 Narcan deployments,” said Kissinger.

When it comes to the next five years Kissinger said they are excited about expanding services to the downtown area.

“We are starting to take over outreach for the encampment team, which is a good role for us because prior to that we didn’t really hand out anything or we didn’t really offer anything other than wellness checks and Narcan deployments,” said Kissinger.

Anyone interested in volunteering with The Watch is invited to visit lethbridgepolice.ca and click on “Join our Team”

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