“Spark of Hope:” Bear Clan Patrol distributes bannock, clothes and kindness on Edmonton’s streets

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Author of the article:

Lauren Boothby

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February 28, 2021February 28, 2021Read for 4 minutes 19 comments The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postal media

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“Soup and Bannock!” The hot offer of a hot meal sounds down Alberta Avenue on a cold February night.

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The Bear Clan Patrol Edmonton Beaver Hills House has been operating Wednesday and Sunday nights along 118 Avenue since November.

That night, 11 volunteers – some in bright orange vests and jackets – offer passers-by on the street and at the Coliseum LRT station soup, sandwiches, candy, hot drinks, warm winter clothing, toiletries, and damage control supplies.

The Bear Clan is one of eight groups across the country that started on the streets of Winnipeg, led by indigenous peoples who aimed to fill a void in services by providing those who need them Basic needs approachable and supportive. They also help connect people to social services like shelter.

Judith Gale, who started the local patrol, was once homeless herself.

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“I know everything about this life. I lived it when I was younger, ”she says.

Gale is a Dene-Cree woman from the Salt River First Nation in the Northwest Territories. A survivor of the 1960s scoop child welfare system, she ran away from home at the age of 12 and lived on the streets of Montreal for a while.

She knows from her own experience how powerful goodness can be.

“I am very happy to give something back, because without the help I received in my youth I would not be here today.”

And since she used to live on Alberta Avenue, she chose this route for her twice-weekly patrols because she saw a need in the neighborhood.

“Unfortunately, some of our brothers and sisters live rough on the streets and don’t know when their next meal will be, especially during this food shortage and pandemic,” she says.

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Volunteers feeding the homeless at the Central LRT one day during Edmonton’s extreme cold snap in February were picked up by the video police, who stopped meals and brought the assembled people back to -30 ° C.

The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton, Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton, Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia Photo by Ed Kaiser /20092696A

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Before the bear clan takes to the streets, Gale gives a blessing and burns sage before the group sets off with their offerings around 6:30 p.m.

Volunteers take turns pulling five red freight cars along the five-kilometer route. They stop to talk and feed to anyone who might need them along the way. Upon arriving at 82 Street and 118 Avenue, head west to 90 Street, then east to Coliseum LRT station before heading back to your base for 10:00 PM

Some assisting motorists passing the procession along 118 Avenue honk and wave.

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One woman they meet says the bowl of moose stew and bannock they gave her is her first meal of the day. You and another woman need shelter. Gale pays a taxi to take her there.

“At least tonight, they’ll be off the street and sleep without being bothered by (authorities),” she says.

Last week the Bear Clan distributed leaflets for a missing woman from Onion Lake. Someone soon recognized her and was helped home.

The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton, Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton, Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia Photo by Ed Kaiser /20092696A

Hand back

Volunteer Blaine Paul says patrol isn’t just about handing out food and goods.

“If you come out and serve these people out here with no expectations, you will gain freedom, peace of mind. Just helping one person at night makes a huge difference, ”he says.

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“These people out here have a lot to share, they have a wealth of knowledge, but we as a society tend to forget them.”

Paul is one of several volunteers who have had firsthand experience of homelessness.

Now working as a powerlineman, when he heard about the patrol, he saw a chance to give people the same “spark of hope” that helped him change his life.

“If I can give someone a little bit of hope, that’s enough for me,” he says. “If a person can do this and get off the street, their life is a lot better.”

Tonight is Paul’s second patrol and he’s responsible for helping with damage reduction and discreetly asking people if they need supplies.

He hopes the movement will grow and believes that this could be a path to reconciliation by acknowledging their needs. He also wants more volunteers to get involved.

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“All kinds of people are in need: there is not just one race, not just one color, and that in every city you visit. It’s time people started moving up, ”he said.

“I mean that in a good way: I think it’s more of a challenge to the people I’m throwing out there … here’s the problem: what are you going to do?”

The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton, Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia The Bear Clan Patrol is a group of volunteers helping people in trouble by bringing food and drink along 118 Avenue in Edmonton, Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia Photo by Ed Kaiser /20092696A

During the evening the group spoke to 128 people or gave them objects. Gale says that every time they go out they see more people in need, sometimes entire families.

Moose stew and bannock, traditional foods in some indigenous cultures, are something they like to give away, especially since many of the people they meet are indigenous.

“When we bring the traditional food, we’re giving them that animal’s blood memory and that will hopefully shake their minds to remember their indigenous ancestry,” she says.

The bear clan started a second patrol in Strathcona at the weekend. She hopes to have two more patrols in the future.

@laurby

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