EDMONTON — Armed with stew, bannock and warm clothes – Edmonton’s new Bear Clan Patrol hit the cold, snowy sidewalks of 118 Avenue Wednesday night.
What started in Winnipeg as a community initiative to reduce crime has now spread to Beaver Hills House, also known as Edmonton, but with a focus on outreach and community service.
“We’re just spreading good love and support and also looking out for our brothers and sisters,” said patrol leader Judith Gale.
Gale, a Dene and Cree woman originally from the Northwest Territories, said the need is great on the streets of Alberta’s capital right now.
“Since COVID has erupted it’s just terrible with mental health issues and everything else. I like to think we kind of put the community at ease knowing that we’re out there supporting their lost loved ones, perhaps, or their relatives on the street,” said Gale.
About a dozen people walked 118 Avenue Wednesday handing out warm food, clothing, candy, and hygiene products.
The group approached and was approached by 6 people within the first two blocks.
One woman desperately needed a winter coat and gloves, a pair of men were grateful to accept a warm meal, Gale also shared a belly laugh with a woman seeking shelter at a bus stop.
Bear Clan Patrol also carries Naloxone overdose kits and radios in case they encounter someone having a health or security issue.
‘I MADE MY ANCESTORS PROUD’
Brandi Brazeau, a Cree woman, joined the Bear Clan when it started Nov. 1 because she knows how rough it can be on the streets.
“I used to struggle years ago with active addiction, and I’ve been sober for two years now,” Brazeau said.
“Now that I have my education and I’m back on track, I want to give back to those who’ve been there before and helped me and my kids out.”
“I feel like I made my ancestors proud,” she added, describing the feeling she gets when she returns from a patrol.
The Bear Clan is Indigenous led but welcomes everyone and helps everyone.
Anyone is welcome to take what they need, and the group has a rule not to say “no.”
Gale said people take only what they need and are always grateful.
“The Bear Clan is matriarch run, because it is a clan and we do go by Indigenous teaching of respect and love and the Creator,” Gale said.
She acknowledged the power of Indigenous people helping Indigenous people, but said her culture taught her to help everyone regardless of ethnicity or religion.
“It’s even more lovely to see just a human being. Doesn’t have to be just Indigenous. What we’re missing on the street is the humanity and that’s what we bring back to the street.”
Bear Clan Patrol is welcoming volunteers and donations. More information is available on the groups Facebook page.
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