At the end of September 2021, a new program called Community Outreach Transit Teams (COTT) was launched that partners Bent Arrow outreach workers and City of Edmonton transit peace officers. This is an attempt to unite individuals with resources they may need, but not know how to obtain. So far there are two teams, with hope to expand to four next year.
Within their first week of operation COTT has made a positive impact. Here is a brief story highlighting how impactful this program already is. One of our COTT members came across a woman who had recently fallen on hard times and found herself without shelter. At first, she was very guarded because of poor past experiences with authority figures, self blame, and psychosis.
Our outreach workers and the transit peace officer involved spent time with her and listened to what she had to say. After a period of time, the woman felt safe to open up with the workers and tell her story free of judgment. This allowed the COTT workers to help connect her to resources she needed. Although COTT mainly works in the transit system, they also have a vehicle to take people directly to the services they need.”First off, the COTT took her to the Bissell Centre for her to take a shower and get a new set of clothes. Then, they got her to a social worker and waited with her while she received medication to help her to exit the psychosis and to stabilize.
The team then brought her to Hope Mission for the interim while she was able to detox enough to pass a drug test and go to Wellspring Edmonton. The COTT continuously checked up on her, to make sure she was sticking to her medication and accomplishing tasks. Because of the new COTT initiative, a woman who didn’t think she deserved help, received the help she needed. She was ashamed and embarrassed because she had no money, and she is now on a path to achieving better health and succeeding.
Seeing as these are the type of results happening due to this new program, the future looks promising for the Community Outreach Transit Team program.
We had the opportunity to speak to some COTT members and asked what the initial response to the program is: INCREDIBLE. Having a Bent Arrow outreach worker there made people feel more comfortable approaching the team and people are intrigued and open to the idea of a community worker in collaboration with an officer. The transit peace officers are hopeful this new initiative will help to break down the “uniform barrier” and help to build and strengthen the reputation and trust of the police and peace officers. The goal is to eventually have a much bigger COTT unit, equivalent to the size of peace officers or police officers. By understanding and helping individuals, we will succeed in helping our community, and society in general, to strengthen relationships and build trust.
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