Alvin Mills, who had once fallen victim to addiction himself, is now helping others on their road to recovery — which is an especially important task right now given the current health climate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Born and raised on the Blood Tribe reserve in southern Alberta, Mills was addicted to opioids and alcohol for the majority of his life. But after going through detox and treatment, he completely turned his life around and is now helping those going through similar challenges.
Mills says a significant portion of the homeless population dealing with addiction in Lethbridge is from the nearby Blood Tribe, which at 13,000 band members is the largest reserve in Canada.
Closures to fast food dining rooms in Lethbridge and elsewhere in Alberta have hit the vulnerable population particularly hard, as they often seek out these places for food, comfort, and even warmth.
“I really do wanna stress with this pandemic going on, everybody matters, no matter who you are, everybody should get the help and support that’s needed,” Mills said.
“For some of them, that might be their only meal for the day and they’re getting shooed away from everywhere,” he added.
“They’re running out of places to actually go and sit and relax and they’re always on the move.”
Fed up with lack of support, he started an organization in 2018 called the Foundation of Hope, in which he and others reach out to the at-risk and vulnerable population. He provides those in need with a meal, words and support, and when needed, help.
Mills highlights that fighting addiction only becomes more stressful during a pandemic. His nephew Donovan Day Chief is trying to get into a detox centre for the third time in an effort to overcome his illness, and is homeless right now.
“You just gotta, you know, have a lot of willpower, and think of the positive outcome at the end — when you’re actually able to do what you’re trying to do or get over what you’re trying to get over,” Day Chief said.
The Blood Tribe reserve is ready with supports for anyone looking to return home, tribe administration communications spokesperson Pam Blood said.
“There has been no real call out for members to come back, but the thing is — that it may be their personal choice,” Blood explained.
“Emergency management is really working to be prepared in case tribe members decide to come back here and utilize the shelters or anything like that,” she added.
For those who choose to stay in Lethbridge despite the pandemic, Mills says his work supporting his fellow community members will go on.
As he helps people during his spare time, Mills wants more done. He hopes for the government’s support with the creation of an aftercare facility, which he says is crucial for recovery and which he wants his organization to spearhead.
He says knowing from experience, many who make it out of treatment need that extra boost and direction to make the transition back into society and the working world. He said the option is currently not available. He’s looking for community and government support.
— With files from Chris Chacon, Global NewsView link »