The Indigenous Family Centre (IFC) in Winnipeg, Man., is a community resource focused on feeding the bodies, minds, souls, and spirits of marginalized and vulnerable people living in the North End of Winnipeg. IFC, one of three urban aboriginal ministries operated by the Christian Reformed Church, is not a drug rehabilitation or treatment center, but in the midst of Winnipeg’s current drug addiction crisis, the staff needs help—some of which is coming from community partnerships.
The Bear Clan, a local volunteer organization that regularly patrols the neighborhood streets, keeps an eye out. Recently, they were able to intervene when a center visitor sleeping off a high had been inadvertently left alone. In a Facebook post, Michele Visser, the center’s director, described the event in a call for support: “I offered her a place to sleep on the couch in our family room and checked on her periodically. Twice I tried to get her to leave but she had no safe space to go to. And it's cold. And she's about my own kids' ages. I just didn't have the heart to kick her out.”
“As a small resource center located in the north end, we have seen a huge rise in the number of young addicts. And they're not just dabbling. They are injecting dangerous street drugs that induce a craving many of us cannot imagine,” Visser wrote. “We are not truly equipped to deal with a drug epidemic of this magnitude.”
Melody (who asked that her last name not be used), is a regular participant in programs at IFC. She knows what it is like to be addicted to crystal meth, a crystallized form of d-methamphetamine, made and sold illegally throughout the U.S. and Canada. “You don’t feel sad or lonely when you’re high, but you start to feel that when you’re coming down. And when you’re coming down from drugs, you start to believe that everyone is turning against you. From my experience, what I did was I would go look for the high again so I wouldn’t have to feel that,” she said.
Visser believes the key to addressing the problem is investing intentionally in children and youth. “They say that if one adult is involved in a child’s life, the chances of them going down that road are so much lower. It doesn’t have to be our program, it doesn’t have to be a specifically Christian program, it’s just you—people, Christians—being a caring, safe, mentoring adult in young people’s lives.”
Melody’s suggestions are similar. “Many kids become addicted because they have overwhelming feelings of not knowing who they are or where they belong. We need more prevention and more awareness. Show the youth you care about them. We need more people working with their hearts to feel what is actually going on.”
Visser said, “Proverbs 11:10 says ‘When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices,’ and I always thought of that verse when I started here. If our center could flourish and we could flourish here, the spillover effect happens.”
IFC has invested in youth programs and worked to make positive community connections, including with Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO). Every Friday night for the last six years, AYO has used IFC’s space to meet together.
“Because of [our welcome], many of the young people will say things like, ‘That Christian Reformed Church is pretty cool!’ This is their face of our denomination and they think it’s awesome,” Visser said.
Addressing the crystal meth crisis will require hard work by individual, community, municipal, provincial, and federal cooperation. In the meantime, Visser suggests we each take personal responsibility for choosing one thing from Matthew 25:31-46 (in which Jesus commends his sheep for feeding, clothing, visiting, and caring for him as they’ve cared for the least of those around them) and to do it.
“Wherever are, whatever you do, however busy you are, whatever is happening in your life, you can make space for one young person,” she said.
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