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Tales from the Street - March 24/22

We hear from Robert H again this week. We share his words as he speaks volumes about what it is like to do volunteer street outreach.


There’s a D&D module/adventure. “A Paladin in Hell”. I’ve attached the picture. It’s old, but it gets the point across.

Some days it feels like that on Water Warriors. A never ending stream of frustrations and just pure evil coming at you, and you’re fighting it with a water gun.

Let’s hit the highlights while it’s still fresh in my mind. We set up, looking around, we had less folks out than usual (the weather and a few folks fighting the ongoing endemic and/or taking a break for their mental health. Highly advise the later when you can.) but we had a smaller but still mighty team. Breaking into our leapfrogging groups, off we set.

Less folks out than last week, our provisions of pizza buns, chicken salad, roasted vegetables and other assorted goodies went down a treat. Got to our usual route down the alley behind the Spady. And lo and behold, the same folks who complain about not wanting things in their backyard? Yeah…..they’ve blockaded off the area that is some folks houses. For more construction, while there are buildings around the area that still sit empty and unused. Because after all, what we clearly need are more high-rise apartments so people who can’t afford them can gaze lovingly up at their betters, right?

I’ll admit after the fun and games from last week, I was feeling pretty removed. I just wanted to help out folks, have a good night, and maybe have a few “God Bless you's sent our way. You know, feel good about what we’re doing, and maybe stockpile some good and happy thoughts like a squirrel storing nuts and seeds for the hard times ahead.

Had a really fun time helping a wonderful volunteer play “spot the needles” on the ground so we could do cleanup. Oddly enough, that really buoyed my spirits because they are a fantastically wonderful human being and occasionally us old goats need to be reminded that there IS good in the world. It was nice to just be around someone who was cheerful.

Got to Boyle street, kiddy corner from Rogers place (I am probably in the minority who don’t care how the oilers do, I just want the season over with so we can get back to work helping folks)

There were a couple who were sitting in a shelter and when we went to give them some food and stuff, (already run out of snacks, so we had sandwiches and packages of nuts and seeds for folks) found out that the gentleman was about 90% sure he had COVID, and the lady was not feeling well either. So one of our volunteers called to see what the plan was for these lovely folks, and some of us went to help out others.

(Yes, my geeky, nerdy brethren. We split the party. I can hear the drums in the deep.)

After a brief interlude, we regrouped and attempted a speed-run back to home base (out of supplies, out of water, out of sandwiches, out of everything except care and support for folks who have little but still deserve and maintain dignity and kindness towards each other) Had a few stumbles here and there, not having much but being able to give what we could was appreciated.

Got back to the round up, and I tried to get in contact with the group that had separated off. They were on the way back, and decided to check in on a lady who’d been having some troubles earlier.

At this point, she’d gone down, was unresponsive, and one of our unsung heroes, who had gone right from working with the disadvantaged to volunteering with them, had helped her out with a dose of Naloxone. The remote team had called in the medical emergency, and my “I need to be over there with A.” reflex had gone off. A understanding person drove me over, saving me having to run a couple blocks like a crazy man, and I showed up basically to stand around and be useless, but being useless WITH A. helps my sanity a lot more than being useless and NOT being around A.

About this time, we’d realized that we could probably use a place to get our lady to. I and one of our other Team Leads walked over to the Spady Supervised Consumption Site.

I’m gonna rant a bit here. We have……a couple SCS in Edmonton. Spady is the “big” one left. Except it had a nice cardboard sign in the window letting us know it had closed at 7 and was open for supplies only. I was tempted to ring the bell and ask for help anyway, but I know from experience that we’re not likely to get anything more than “just call 911.” Which A. had done and was on the phone with already. So we walked back.

Dr Hinshaw’s big goal back before COVID was to put an end to the Opioid Crisis.

I used to like Doc Hinshaw. I like her less day by day.

Frustration had kicked in by the time we were waiting on any help, and a EPS SUV drove by. I’m going to paint a picture for you.

Lady lying on the sidewalk. 6 folks with reflective vests on. 2 cars with emergency blinkers on stopped somewhat haphazardly on the road nearby. EPS just drove by at 40-50 kph, didn’t slow down, didn’t even look. I will remember that the next time Mr. Sohi is telling us all about how EPS is here to help folks. They didn’t know what was going on, we could have desperately needed their help. They. Didn’t. Even. Slow. Down.

The Ambulance showed up a couple minutes later, and an ABSOLUTE FUCKING HERO came out of the back of the bus. In the past couple weeks, we’ve seen ambulance attendants working on folks who are clearly burnt out, just grabbing folks by clothes and dragging them to work on them, brushing off concerns that folks have for how they’re being treated. I get being overworked and burnt out. I truly empathize with them. They have a rough job. But it’s left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

This gentleman. This fucking wonderful man comes out of the back of the boo-boo bus and just came over and was empathetic, kind, caring, and everything we needed at the end of a rough night. He was amazed when we knew what the hell we were talking about, gave a quick but thorough debrief, and offered extra kits for the lady when she was starting to come around. He was absolutely amazing with the victim, and it was needed. Felt absolutely confident handing her over to his care.

So that was the night. Couple more demons down, couple more scratches on the armour. Might take a week off next week and recharge the batteries (take a long rest, for the nerds amongst you)

Hope your evenings were well. Please consider contacting your MLAs and reminding them that supports for the unhoused and SCS would be a wonderful help to the disadvantaged.

~Robert H - Water Warriors YEG Team Leader

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