Our Town

Street Angel program recognized in film

This still is from the documentary “Reaching the Risky”, about Cranbrook’s Operation Street Angel.  - Vimeo.com
This still is from the documentary “Reaching the Risky”, about Cranbrook’s Operation Street Angel.
— image credit: Vimeo.com

Arne Petryshen and Sally MacDonald

A Cranbrook-based program that provides support for people living on the street has been recognized provincially and documented in a short film.

The four-minute documentary was made possible by Community Action Initiative, explained Shannon Girling-Hebert, administrator of quality assurance and service integration at Street Angel, during a presentation to the Regional District of East Kootenay board of directors on Friday, June 6.

"We have been funded by the Community Action Initiative for Operation Street Angel. We were awarded the gold standard. So they sent a professional film crew out to film Operation Street Angel," said Girling-Hebert.

Operation Street Angel is funded jointly by Interior Health, Community Action Initiative, the Ktunaxa Nation and Teck.

The program is open 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year, in a rented space on 14th Avenue North in Cranbrook. Vulnerable people can visit the drop-in centre for a hot meal every day except Wednesday – when the Salvation Army offers a free meal – as well as laundry and shower services, computers, access to a nurse practitioner and mental health clinicians, and other support provided by Street Angel's 50 partners in the Cranbrook area.

"We have between 80-100 clients eating on a busy night," said Girling-Hebert.

Girling-Hebert said when Street Angel first started in 2010, it was to provide services to Ktunaxa citizens who were off-reserve and residing in the Cranbrook area.

"The directors wanted something for people living in the Cranbrook area as a result of three Ktunaxa deaths in Cranbrook on the streets," she said.

"It quickly became clear that there were a lot more people than Ktunaxa citizens out there and a lot more people than Aboriginal people."

Now Operation Street Angel is searching for a new building to hold the drop-in centre as it has outgrown the current location.

"We are hoping that we will have a new building as well as an emergency and transitional facility with beds until we can place people in appropriate housing," said Girling-Hebert.

Every day Street Angel helps vulnerable people in life-saving ways. She gave one powerful example.

"Yesterday we received a call from a young man with a noose around his neck. The staff acted quickly and efficiently and kept him on the line while they got the nurse practitioner on the line with him. They did a reverse lookup, found his address, called 911, and he's safe."

Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski spoke up about the impact Street Angel has had in the city.

"I just want people to really understand how important Street Angel has been to Cranbrook over the last few years. It has really become a place of community. It's not just for the aboriginal community – it's for people in need in Cranbrook.

"The nurse practitioner has become access to medical services that otherwise would not have been available to people with the doctor shortages that are going on. They intervene and help people get to the hospital who need treatment and help move them through the system in the hospital.

"They really are a model that I hope will be exported to the rest of B.C. and Canada."

You can view the Operation Street Angel documentary, "Reaching the Risky", at www.vimeo.com/94447483.

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