Brian Nimijean, founder of the non-profit Camp Carmangay, is looking to spread awareness on solutions to the homeless issues here in Lethbridge.
Working on the ground to provide a cost-effective camp for disadvantaged youths, Nimijean drives into the city engaging at-risk youth for his camp where they are given many of the amenities they have gone without while finding a spiritual journey away from the struggles endemic to homelessness like opiates and violence, and giving many youths an opportunity to achieve sobriety and risk-free living for a weekend.
Nimijean sees the arising issues caused by problems being hidden or pushed aside without solutions being put up to curb them.
“You treat the trauma; the addiction will go. Treat the addiction, the trauma will grow,” said Nimijean, a mantra on how he works hoping others can understand that the problem still exists when there is no solution, but if there is a solution the problem has the opportunity to be eliminated. “You have to have something to start somewhere, you have to have a sense of safety. Find an incentive, you will help.”
Recently Nimijean saw conflict arising from homeless people fighting over cigarettes, deciding to go out and buy packs to distribute amongst the homeless to stop violence. He noted if you take away the problem with a solution, the violence stops. Cigarettes are bad for your health, but violence is worse when someone becomes desperate for an addiction.
Homeless youth at the Camp say they struggle to scrape by, finding many roadblocks blocking their chances.
“In order to get a job, I need resources, but when I don’t have resources, I have to look to other methods to get them,” said a youth at Camp Carmangay, wishing to remain anonymous, explaining that if people know they are homeless they won’t hire them. Many homeless youths get forced down roads of drugs and prostitution because they view it as a way to scrape by, saying they know it’s bad but when you’re hungry and needing a roof over your head you need to get money somehow. “I have skills but to work I need an education, and education costs money, which I don’t have. How do I get out when I can’t get by?”
An overarching goal of Camp Carmangay is to spread awareness on kindness, preaching minimalism over abundance. When resources are overflowing, stockpiling is not the solution, but instead should be shared with those that are unable to stock up and need to survive. When pathways to success are guarded by inflated economies, those without anything often struggle with escaping their own poverty.
Nimijean shares stories of families that go out to these city encampments and hand out resources like food and water, sharing their wealth to those who have none.
“We shouldn’t be relying on governments. We have the resources. We have the availability with our abundance. Kids come out here and they get a shower, they get food, they can enjoy life without worry. I drive down in my Ford Escape and load up as many as I can, giving them something they’ve never had in forever. Let’s go to my place, give you a home, give you a roof, and give you some sort of rehabilitation for three days.”
Currently Nimijean brings them up to the Camp for three days, and is looking to expand on this, starting with open discussion and talking through how growth can be continual and eliminate the setbacks of being set-up to fail.
Nimijean calls his Camp a place you bring everything, your blemishes with your blessings. Talking about how when we look at the problem as an issue it remains an issue, but if we look at it from a perspective of what we can do, we eliminate the need for others to eventually come in, and become the change ourselves.
“It’s not a political thing, it’s not a commercial enterprising thing. If I’m going to stress anything, I’m going to stress the appeal to the citizenship of Lethbridge to look at the simplicity of what I’m doing here. As a citizen, as a community, we should be able to absorb this into our community. We are a diverse culture in Lethbridge that can help.”
Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald