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That program, known as Street Outreach Services, or SOS, involved two staffers driving around and checking on the city’s homeless, intoxicated and others at risk on the streets, and taking them to hospitals, detox facilities and shelters, said Alexandra Calderon, a development officer at Shelter House.
“My first reaction was ‘I’m sure you need this money more and you should take it and keep it for yourself,”’ Calderon said. “He said, ‘No, no, I want to make sure my friends are safe and the SOS is out there so that if they need help, or a ride, they can get one.”’
Both Calderon and the man, who wishes to remain anonymous, then broke into tears.
Calderon said the man, who now has his own apartment, was at the shelter in early April during a news conference where David Paul Achneepineskum, the CEO of Matawa First Nation, pledged $ 10,000 per year for the next five years to the organization on behalf of the First Nation.
At that time, Achneepineskum called on others to step up.
“Just because somebody is intoxicated, doesn’t mean they deserve to be incarcerated,” she said.
“We’ll pick them up and bring them to where they need to go, whether it’s to a friend’s house or whether it’s back to the shelter or to the hospital. But we need money to get the program going to be able to do that.”
The shelter has raised $ 75,000, but needs $ 125,000 in order to get the outreach program running again.
In the past month, two First Nation teenagers were pulled from local waterways, prompting area chiefs to call for the RCMP to investigate. The chiefs slammed the Thunder Bay Police for what they called an ongoing indifference of indigenous people.