Author: Noor Al-Henedy
The Community Outreach Transit Team, or COTT for short, is a partnership between the City of Edmonton and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society. Together, a transit peace officer and a Bent Arrow outreach worker patrol transit facilities with an eye, an ear and a heart for the needs of vulnerable Edmontonians. Launched as a pilot in 2021, COTT focuses on building trust and relationships that help people work towards long-term solutions.
The COTT team has been working with a 22-year-old Mohawk young man. Matthew aspires to become an Indigenous Youth Counselor. When he first connected with COTT, Matthew was only four days out from being in the Edmonton Remand Centre for 18 months. Since the beginning of his incarceration at the Remand, Matthew got sober and embarked on a journey to turn his life around. Matthew struggled with access to medication for some of his mental health issues and was feeling distressed. He informed the COTT team that the transition back into society has been difficult.
After his release from the Remand, he was supposed to stay at his friend’s mom’s house, but when he arrived, the house was full of too many drug users. Matthew made a great choice and immediately walked out, since he knew that was clearly the wrong environment for him to maintain his 18 months of sobriety. While in prison, Matthew’s mother and brother both overdosed and passed away. He was unable to attend the funerals and say good-bye because of his incarceration. He said missing such important moments made him realize how his previous lifestyle was not what he wanted for his future.
The COTT team contacted the Alberta Works crisis line and explained Matthew’s circumstances to secure coverage for his medication. While Matthew’s medications were being prepared, the team began the application for Alberta Works. We arranged and participated in phone interviews with the worker and Matthew. The application was formally approved on January 25 and money was deposited three days later. Matthew is now staying at the Salvation Army and the front desk holds the meds and dispenses them daily.
Part of Matthew’s probation is attending treatment, and he chose to go to an Indigenous treatment location. The COTT team helped him submit an application to Nayoskan and Matthew may be able to attend in the next few weeks. Matthew was also eager to make his own money. Matthew went to Boyle Street’s Four Directions to talk with Hire Good. He was hired and has recently received his first cheque on January 27.