Outreach workers are back on Red Deer streets and walking paths each night with backpacks filled with emergency supplies for people in need.
NightReach, operated by Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, has a team of two workers roaming the downtown to assist people and increase referrals to addiction support programs.
“We’ve had staff on the streets since Aug. 30,” said CAANS executive director Jennifer Vanderschaeghe.
NightReach is the continuation of a pilot program that started last fall.
Workers are on the job Monday to Friday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from 4 to 10 p.m.
Alberta Health Services provided NightReach with $100,000 in annual funding through a crime prevention fund.
Since Aug. 30, workers have had an average of 27 contacts with people per night. Sixty per cent of people were homeless or not living at home, 41 per cent were drug users, 11 per cent were youth, six per cent were sex workers and 28 per cent were women.
Outreach workers carry first aid kits, harm reduction supplies for safer inhalation, safer injection and safer sex, as well as tuques, mitts, socks, scarves, water and granola bars.
Vanderschaeghe said CAANS and its outreach workers continue to protect the privacy of clients at the CAANS office and on the street.
“We aren’t going to rat. We’ve run needle exchange for 12 years. We’ve never narked and we’re not going to start now.”
The public can also learn about addiction at a community educational workshop with author Dr. Gabor Maté on Oct. 19, sponsored by Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health and Housing.
Maté is a physician on Vancouver’s downtown eastside with many patients suffering from mental illness, drug addiction and HIV.
His latest book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts looks at the epidemic of addictions in our society.
The workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at CrossRoads Church.
Admission is $95 and includes lunch. To register, call Safe Harbour at 403-347-0181.