Kamloops’ Out Of The Cold (OOTC) program has seen positive results since implementing services geared toward its Indigenous clientele.
Operating two days per week out of The Loop location at Tranquille Road and MacKenzie Avenue in North Kamloops, the local charity feeds and shelters homeless individuals with a focus on Indigenous people who make up a majority of its clientele.
OOTC executive director Dina Lambright said the organization is providing “an Indigenous lens” with services as about 70 per cent of the people they help are Indigenous.
Since November 2020, OOTC has had offerings such as Indigenous foods — including take-out bannock and salmon dinners — native medicine bags filled with sage, sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar, talking circles, visits from spiritual healers, elders and drummers.
“Drumming is healing,” Lambright said, noting it elicited tears in the eyes of one participant.
“When Indigenous people sing their songs, it reminds them of who they are and allows them to share their culture with each other and other people in a safe space.”
Connections are also made with other service providers, like the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
According to OOTC, there has been good feedback from guests, who have said they appreciate the cultural support as much as the food and shelter.
With a laugh, Lambright said people around The Loop still ask, “When’s the bannock lady coming back?”
She said others were humbled to again eat their traditional foods when OOTC recently served a salmon dinner.
“I think it was important for us to make sure [they had] that food security and try and give that back,” Lambright said. “The white person took that away from them. Maybe we could give it back.”
Lambright noted that, recently, it has been difficult for some of the Indigenous clientele to cope amidst the announcement by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc that the remains of 215 children had been found in individual unmarked graves on grounds of the former Kamloops Residential Indian School.
The news, Lambright said, had medicine bags in high demand.
Lambright noted the agency serves about 150 meals per day. In the winter, at the shelter space, OOTC was seeing, on average, 250 people stop in per week until the end of March.
OOTC has continued since, operating during the daytime on Fridays and between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. on and Saturdays, thanks to a grant from the City of Kamloops.
“I think people are embracing us,” Lambright said.
She said OOTC has branched out from being only an overnight shelter to becoming more of a community-driven project — and that community is primarily Indigenous.
Lambright pointed to Canada’s colonial past and the residential school system when asked why Indigenous people make up such a large percentage of the homeless population OOTC serves,
“What did we expect?” Lambright asked.
At the moment, OOTC is aiming to offer its Out Of The Heat shelter to help Kamloopsians escape the hot summer temperatures over the next few months.
It is also hoping to maintain its current funding until Nov.1, when it plans to operate the Out Of The Cold shelter again over winter.
OOTC is always looking for volunteers and donations, be it cash or in-kind support.
Those interested in volunteering their time or making a donation can contact Lambright via email at email@example.com.