MacEwan students create volunteer street outreach group

·2 min read
Students Mitchell Johnson (right) and Kayla Huxter created the Street Outreach and Resource Team earlier this year. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC - image credit)
Students Mitchell Johnson (right) and Kayla Huxter created the Street Outreach and Resource Team earlier this year. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC - image credit)

Two social work students at MacEwan University are doing what they can to help prevent overdoses in downtown Edmonton.

In April, Mitchell Johnson and Kayla Huxter launched the Street Outreach and Resource Team.

The idea came when Johnson was working with Boyle Street's crisis diversion team.

"I had a shift where I saw I think like ten overdoses or potential overdoses in a day," Johnson said. "It was just ridiculous and a motivating factor. I want to do something about that."

The pair connected with Alberta Health Services and the Street Works program out of Boyle Street Community Services to get them started.

Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC
Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC

Johnson and Huxter now walk the inner city areas and provide basic need items like water bottles, snacks, and socks.

They also carry harm reduction supplies, naloxone kits, and respond to issues like overdoses as needed. StreetWorks provides some of those supplies.

"Unfortunately, there's such a huge demand for services that our social services aren't able to meet right now," Huxter said.

"We wanted to be able to meet people where they were at, provide them with any supplies that they needed at that time without making them have to access those services outside of their capabilities."

What started as a two-person team has grown to upwards of 14 volunteers.

"I know there's a lot of groups out there, but I think there could be a dozen more groups and we would always be busy all the time. There's just so much need for it," Johnson said.

The passion project has evolved more than they ever imagined, Johnson said he has been paying for several items out of his own pocket.

"I think the fact that groups like ours and students have to take this into their own hands is a sign that maybe our governments are not doing enough," Johnson said.

They are asking for donations to keep up with demand. In May they helped more than 300 people.

"It's really rewarding to get out and engage with our community that is going through a lot of hard things and often gets ignored," Johnson said,

"When people are just so thankful and grateful that we're there. It really makes me feel like we're doing something good."

As for Huxter, the relationships the pair have formed have been the most rewarding part.

"Even just taking the time to talk to that person to see how their day's been going to hear, some of their stories just means so much more to them. So, just taking that time to see people as people and not their situation."

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