Heather Black has a personal connection to the people living on the streets of Downtown Calgary.
“My family were pretty well all struggling with addiction. Most of the have gone now,” she told APTN News while preparing for her second walk with Calgary’s new Bear Clan Patrol.
The idea stems from the Indigenous based group in Winnipeg, doing their part to keep their streets safe.
“Our people need a friendly face,” Black said.
She joined the group for its first patrol a week ago.
“They need to know that we care about our people and we need to show compassion.”
With temperatures dropping, the need for support groups on the streets is rising.
The group meets on Fridays.
When APTN News followed the patrol, it started off as a small group of four in the downtown core.
By sundown, that group grew to ten.
They met again in the Calgary’s Forest Lawn area, a community with a high Indigenous population.
When hitting the streets, they’re equipped with naloxone kits, feminine hygiene products, safety kits and a needle box.
“We’ve needed this for a very long time”, said organizer Gitz Derange, who put out a call for volunteers on Facebook.
“The murdered and missing Indigenous girls, two spirited men, it hasn’t gone down.”
After the first patrol, donations of safety gear began to pour in; steel toed boots, gloves and headlamps allow to Bear Clan to spot and clean up needles.
“I think it was 70 needles at the end of the night. So, that’s harm reduction in this area”, Derange said. “Some kid bringing out the garbage accidentally steps on a needle. So, getting those needles off the street, it makes us feel a lot better.”
In time, the Bear Clan Patrol hopes to see more volunteers out protecting the streets of Calgary.
Derange said taking initiative is the only way to make change.
“We know that nobody is going to help us. We know that we have to create the change for any answers for ourselves. That’s what we’re doing.