Vulnerable population in Ridge Meadows get free lunch bags

lunch bags loaded in car for distribution
Jerrica Hackett (L) and Jesse (R), peer coordinator take a photo before beginning lunch bag distribution/Photo Supplied

Every Monday, nearly 50 vulnerable Ridge Meadows residents get free lunch bags from Stop Overdose in Ridge Meadows (STORM) members.

To date, they have given out nearly 450 lunch bags that include cookies, granola bars and enough food to make a single meal.

These lunch bags are made by a volunteer working with STORM, helping provide at least one meal for the homeless people in the area.

Read: Decriminalization in the midst of an opioid crisis

Through this weekly outreach program, part-time workers including Jerrica Hackett have been able to learn more about these people as individuals.

“It’s nice that we’re not coming from a place of judgment and we’re meeting people where they’re at within the community. We’re making connections, we’re learning people’s names. We’re there to support and have had people reach out and ask for help getting into recovery and treatment,” shared Hackett, project co-ordinator for Ridge Meadows Comprehensive Action Team at STORM.

The team is created in partnership with the Ministry of Mental Health and Overdose Emergency Response Centre (OERC) in communities which are hardest hit by the opioid crisis in British Columbia.

Hackett took the position in December 2022 after Kim Dumore left the organization to fill in the School Board Trustee position.

As members left and joined the team, the outreach program was put on the back burner. But soon after joining hands with Jesse Sokol from the Non-Judgmental Recovery Society, things were up and running once again.

lunch bags loaded in car
Every Monday, approximately 50 lunch bags are given out to the unsheltered in Ridge Meadows/Photo Supplied

When Sokol noticed people were not getting meals on Monday, they decided to hand out lunch bags. However, despite their outreach efforts, there are still gaps in the provision of meals and harm-reduction supplies.

“One meal a day doesn’t feed us and we should have three meals a day at least. So even with our outreach efforts, there’s always room for more. Basically, he noticed that Monday was a gap in service as far as food went. and then, you know, obviously, not all the other organizations are offering harm reduction supplies,” said Hackett.

Through their outreach work, they also provide harm reduction kits which include naloxone kits, pipes, injections and other safe supplies people might need.

“It’s necessary for those that choose to use substances to do so safely. I think we’re very focused on just harm reduction [and] in meeting people where they’re at. But obviously, if people are safe and alive long enough, hopefully, they’ll come to a point where they choose to go down the road of recovery. But that’s not really what our thing is,” she added.

The organization declined to share how many harm reduction kits have been given out.

As a peer-led organization, its focus is to listen to those who need help, something often overlooked.

Parents and others with lived experience of substance use are invited to the monthly meetings and paid an honorarium to share their concerns and the support they need within the community.

Despite having her own car broken into in the Maple Ridge downtown area, Hackett said she finds helping these people rewarding.

“People are so grateful, so appreciative. It’s really incredible just to see the response because I think sometimes people paint our vulnerable population with such a negative brush. If you’re seeing someone in their worst moments, that’s what you remember. But really, When you’re out there doing stuff like that, like they’re so beyond appreciative.”

STORM is funded through Community Action Grants, an initiative to provide “action-oriented strategies to help address the opioid crisis on a local level.”

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