Uniting Northern Drug Users Undoing Stigma (UNDU) now has an Atco office trailer set up to provide services to those living at Moccasin Flats.
UNDU is an Indigenous-led, peer-run, grassroots drug user group that focuses on harm reduction and now has boots on the ground at Moccasin Flats, the encampment set up at Lower Patricia Boulevard.
“We’ve been wanting to provide services at Moccasin Flats for a while trying to see how we could do that, other than just outreach, because outreach is kind of hit and miss,” said Katt Cadieux, UNDU founder and executive director.
“We really want to be able to have people on-site for many different reasons to provide secure support, a sense of security or safety so if something is going on they can come to see us and get help.”
She said they were able to purchase the trailer through funds from the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and are working on getting it up to code so it can function with electrical, heat, and possibly sewer services.
They also hope to be able to provide shower access and cooking equipment so they can provide warm meals and drinks throughout the day.
In 2021, two B.C. Supreme Court cases ruled against injunctions requesting the closure of the encampment, as Prince George was found to have insufficient daytime services and shelter spaces for unhoused individuals.
Since then, UNDU has been working to help those living at Moccasin Flats, and last summer it helped establish a community garden to provide food and help strengthen connections.
“We're hoping that down the road, we can have the fire department come down here and do education on fire safety, and how we can help encourage it,” added Cadieux. “Our goal is to build relationships with municipalities and other organizations to provide support to people that are in need.”
With the toxic drug crisis, Cadieux said she’d also like to be able to encourage the residents to get their drugs tested as many people think they are using stimulants, but the drugs actually contain benzos and fentanyl, which can cause an overdose.
She said the long-term goal is to get support from Northern Health to provide overdose prevention services on-site where people can come in and safely use and have someone be able to respond if needed.
“It’s about providing information about how to use a bit safer, providing education around safety when using substances,” added Cadieux.
She said another need they’ve identified for residents is basic wound care, as a lot of people come to UNDU who need band-aids or have abscesses that need cleaning and wrapping.
Cadieux said they help encourage people to keep their wounds clean and identify any infections, as well as providing peer support and advocacy when residents need medical attention.
To support this goal, UNDU plans to provide basic first aid training for about 20 people at the end of November.
“It’s a work in progress,” added Cadieux. “But this is our steppingstone to providing more supports, other than the outreach.”
UNDU was already coming to Moccasin Flats three days per week to check on people, offer snacks, drinks, harm reduction supplies and collect used needles or paraphernalia, but Cadieux says more support is always needed.
Since February, UNDU has also had a space at the Knights Inn where it has been providing a lot of the same services to the residents who live there as well.
However, a lot of unhoused individuals have begun camping at Millennium Park at First and George St. to be closer to washrooms, food services, the POUNDS program and needle exchange.
“I'm hoping by providing services that they need down here, that they might feel a bit more able to come down [to Moccasin Flats],” said Cadieux.
UNDU's goal is also to help empower the residents of Moccasin Flats to become engaged with the trailer as volunteers and eventually hire them for paid positions.
“I strongly believe that if we have the residents down here included within the support services that we're providing, that even when we're not open, that they take pride in their work,” said Cadieux. “Having any opportunities that are positive for them is really hard to come by so we’re trying to provide different opportunities for them where they can get more engaged. It builds them up and provides that sense of belonging.”
The trailer is currently operating from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., seven days per week, but Cadieux said the eventual goal is to have it running 24/7.
“We are just really trying to bridge those gaps and offer the services that have been identified by our peers.”
UNDU is also looking for donations and for people who are interested in supporting the organization in any way.
Cadieux added that currently, the best way to connect with UNDU is to check out the organization's Facebook Page.