Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Be it heat, rent, or food on your plate, for indigenous people in the Medicine Hat area, the Miywasin Friendship Centre wants to help.
With some Reaching Home federal funding, the centre offers support for First Nations, Metis, Inuit, and non-status at risk of homelessness, said Marlene Cadotte, Head of the Counselling Department and the centre.
“We could help them with rental arrears if they’re, if they might be at risk of homelessness, if they don’t pay their rent,” said Cadotte, “So rental arrears, we look at their security deposit, maybe for the first place if they’re looking at something like that. Sometimes we will look at the utilities arrears because we know that those can be quite high. And then if you’re not able to pay the bills, you’re going to get your heat cut off and then you’re probably going to be moving out or such.”
The centre also provides $200 dollar grocery cards available once a month, which are valid for the IGA, Safeway, or Sobeys, to help with those who may be struggling to afford basic groceries.
Cadotte does much of the intake with those in search of assistance, to help determine how best to help the individual or family in question. She notes that with the cold weather, they have been seeing more people coming in, even though they do encourage people to seek out other options before turning to the centre.
Recently, a new staff member was added to the position of Family Liaison and COVID-19 support worker, as the previous moves to being a crisis worker. This allows for the Centre to expand and do more work, said Cadotte.
“We’re noticing when our girls are out in the field there that people are having a really hard time. So just having somebody able to talk to or maybe if there’s some other things on their mind, we can refer them to Salvation Army to maturity to other organizations throughout the city that may be able to help them a little bit more than we can,” said Cadotte. “we’re just noticing that people are needing more than just the gift card. They really need more support when we’re out there, talking with them.”
Part of the appeal of the Friendship Centre for those in need of help is the chance to connect with culture and community, said Cadotte, something that has been sorely missed over the course of COVID-19.
“They seem to stay in touch because we do have other culturally appropriate programs for the indigenous population. So they can stay in contact with us,” said Cadotte. Many individuals, even if referred to the Mustard Seed or Root Cellar, often return for other programming. “We have our youth program. We have our cultural program, we have our kids program, and childcare program that we have here. So those are all in there, they all have an indigenous perspective on it. That’s the biggest thing, I think that’s the groundwork, that’s the grounding that they needed, is to have that cultural part of them being looked at.”