Recovery camp seeking transition to winter accommodations

With colder weather the needs of those struggling with homelessness can often escalate.

Hoping to help and spread resources to those in need, Alvin Mills, founder of the Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin (Kindness to Others) Healing and Recovery Camp, took to the streets Tuesday to hand out bannock sandwiches to those in need.

Going around the city, Mills hoped to fill empty bellies while spreading the message about his recovery camp.

“Kindness to others, that has always been our mandate to support the at-risk,” said Mills. “We have been doing this for years. We go out and hand out lunches to those struggling out here and provide a little bit of engagement.

During the summer, Mills ran a recovery camp that was geared towards healing and recovery with Blackfoot teachings. The camp was situated outside of Lethbridge along the Oldman River across from the Thunder Chief Gas Bar off Highway 509. The operation brought addicts off the streets and away from the source of their problems, to a space where they could begin to work on recovery without obstacles in their way.

Currently the recovery camp run by Mills is on a break, with funding from the City of Lethbridge ending on September 30.

“We did keep it going, our last participant was there until the middle of October. Our last day of funding was September 30. Kind of ironic that it was National Truth and Reconciliation Day and that is when the City stopped. We originally had an agreement for three months but they let us run it for two months.”

Now with Mills’ pilot program done, he is looking to help revamp the program to accommodate for the winter months.

“Usually the shelter gets an overflow, and the city always gets caught in a crisis mode,” said Mills. “If we could have a facility that could address the Indigenous that are here in the city and it is only ten to fifteen minutes from here, we could start transitioning them.”

Mills notes that he has been in talks with the Blood Tribe Department of Health towards a program that could work in tandem with his.

“I commend Derrick Fox (CEO of the BTDH) for the good job that he is doing. We have established a working relationship with the Blood Tribe Department of Health. Hopefully it can flourish as we continue this battle.”

With winter fast approaching and the temperature dropping there is an urgent need for shelters to keep homeless people safe.

“I have individuals that have expressed support for trailers,” said Mills. “Hopefully within the week we can start. I will be reaching out to the Lethbridge community for support in any way they can. Once we can get individuals that have expressed interest to support the winter camp, we can see about creating the sober and emergency shelter.”

With a goal to continue his work towards sobriety and recovery through a Blackfoot lens, Mills hopes with the changing weather people remember to be considerate to those without shelter.

“Some of them are not quite themselves when they are on whatever substance they are struggling with. Just look out for them, make sure someone is around,” said Mills. “The hard hours are from twelve to six a.m. That is one of the things I’m going to suggest to the City. Possibly starting a patrol for them in that timeframe, because a lot of them are on their own at that time.”

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald