Funding boost for patrol group a ‘game-changer’ for Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods

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WATCH: A patrol group that supports the most vulnerable people in Saskatoon just got a major boost that will allow the group to operate for another year – Feb 24, 2021

Just look for the orange vests.

They’ve become well-recognized in Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods — worn by members of the Okihtcitawak Patrol Group, which watches over the community.

Members scour the ground for needles and refer people experiencing homelessness and addiction to support services.

Read more: Pleasant Hill patrol group hopes to reduce stereotypes with full-time watch

“We want to ensure the safety of everyone in the neighbourhood,” said Delano Kennedy, OPG’s executive director.

Kennedy is the only paid member of OPG, his salary covered by a grant secured by Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR). The funding runs out in April, but OPG learned last week a huge donation will help it continue its work.

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In an effort to raise $80,000, Saskatoon’s Kinsmen Club is matching donations up to $40,000. The money will be split between OPG and PHR’s drop-in centre.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing,” Kennedy said.

For the Kinsmen Club, the donation is an investment in the community.

“They are crucial to the fabric of the communities they serve, and we are happy to support their community initiatives,” Kinsmen Club member Curtis Kimpton said in a statement.

The donation is the largest either organization has ever seen, said Jason Mercredi, PHR’s executive director.

“For us and OPG, it’s a game-changer,” he said. “It’s going to allow OPG to operate all of next year.”

OPG delivers culturally competent support for the most marginalized people in Saskatoon, Mercredi said.

“Oftentimes, they’re going to be able to interact with folks before they’re in complete mental health distress,” he said.

The patrol group works with a lot of Indigenous people. Kennedy said many people are eager to connect with OPG because it alleviates concerns about discrimination while seeking out support services.

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“They tend to open up to us more because… we are an Indigenous-created and Indigenous-led group,” he said.

The group will continue to conduct patrols five days a week.

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