Keep the Moses Lake Shelter Open

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On May 1st, the Moses Lake Shelter closes for the spring and summer season. We are aware that the shelter opens intermittently for shelter clients to use the showers and laundry facilities during the spring and summer months but this is, quite frankly, not enough. The members of our tribe who access the shelter are some of our most vulnerable people. Some of them live with disabilities and serious health conditions, many live with addictions, and most, if not all, have nowhere to go once the shelter closes. They are human beings and deserve the basic human dignity of having a roof over their head 365 days a year. Many of them are trapped within a cycle of addiction and poverty and the opportunity for permanent housing is generally contingent on their sobriety. To quote the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness “It is worth pointing out that while addictions can sometimes be a cause of homelessness, for many individuals the use of substances is a response to the stresses and trauma of homelessness and street life.” Asking these members of our tribe to remain clean and sober whilst homeless is not only unrealistic, it’s inhumane.

Right now, many of the people who use the shelter are searching for tents and preparing for the annual cycle of being homeless in the Moses Lake area. During the summer months, many of them will camp out in tents despite extreme temperatures. This last Saturday April 27th, southern Alberta was hit by a severe blizzard and the forecast for the next week is in no way favourable to camping outdoors. The weather forecast for the month ahead ranges anywhere between sub-zero temperatures at night up to 19 degrees in the daytime with an average temperature of around 13 degrees. We all know how windy it can get and how unpredictable precipitation has been in the last few years. One shelter client said that in recent years, he has gone through 5-7 tents over the spring and summer months because the tents cannot sustain the wind, rain, and sometimes snow.

In order to access flushing toilets and clean water, shelter clients go into the town of Cardston to use the facilities in some of the public buildings such as the courthouse. Once the shelter closes, they also are cut-off from the daily meals offered at the shelter in the fall and winter. As you are all aware, many of them resort to panhandling and collecting bottles. Meaning, they are unwelcome in many of the businesses and even on the sidewalks in the town of Cardston, so much so that the town of Cardston hired Peace Officers under the auspices of fighting vagrancy. We all know this issue has been the subject of numerous stories in the national media. Those who have not walked a mile in their shoes, cannot even begin to imagine how dehumanizing and isolating this all must be.

Kiimapiipitsin is one of our core values as Niitsitapi and it is what has kept our people and culture alive through seemingly insurmountable challenges. Compassion and empathy is what all of our people deserve. We, as members of the Blood Tribe, are urging you to find emergency funds to keep the shelter open 7 days a week starting immediately. Forcing these people to live out in the elements is quite literally putting their lives at risk- especially those living with disabilities and serious health conditions.