April 20th, 2020

How Friendship Centres Are Supporting Communities During COVID-19

The 25 Friendship Centres in British Columbia have been contributing to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people for almost 70 years.
At the best of times, Friendships Centres work against high unemployment rates, cutbacks in government spending, and general economic uncertainty.
Now, amid the global COVID-19 crisis, Friendship Centres continue to find ways to provide critical services with disproportionately less support from provincial and federal governments.

Friendship Centre doors are closed to the public so that staff can take all possible measures to operate programs and services safely, including:

– Ensuring minimal points of contact when preparing care kits and managing deliveries
– Frequent sanitation
– Providing direction on physical distancing protocols
– Using safety equipment when possible

The increase in requests for Friendship Centres services, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, surpasses the funds and resources available. Staff are committed to doing the best they can with limited supplies, safety protection, equipment, and financial resources; balancing their own health and safety with the health and safety of their clients, communities and relatives.
Friendship Centre networks understand the unique circumstances within the communities they serve and have found creative ways to help as many people as possible despite present challenges.

How Friendship Centres have adapted to meet community needs:

– Increased number of meal distribution days per week.
– Delivering meals to individuals unable to travel to the Friendship Centre (such as Elders and shut ins).
– Offering supervision for children while parents and caregivers get shopping done.
– Collaborating with local businesses and communities to connect individuals and families in need with food resources available.
– Purchasing slow cookers for families and delivering weekly recipes and ingredients so that families may prepare healthy meals together.
– Offering grocery pick-up and delivery services.
– Offering grocery gift cards and coupons to families and individuals.
– Constructing vegetable gardens and greenhouses, planting fruit trees and berries to provide fresh produce.
– Implementing extra safety precautions in overnight shelter facilities to protect the health of clients and staff.
– Distributing hygiene kits to homeless, creating handwashing stations.
– Implementing extra precautions to continue providing access to storage space, washrooms, showers, and laundry, as safely as possible.
– Setting up clients in isolation with tablets and Zoom to stay connected to each other and Friendship Centre counsellors.
– Preparing and distributing an outline of all support organizations within the community (i.e. hours of operation, if the office is open/closed, contact information, services available), and updating the document weekly to provide clarity for clients.
– Helping clients access housing subsidies and other financial resources available to them.
– Purchasing Chromebooks for youth who need access to school work.
– Hosting Facebook live classes for programs.
– Delivering infant care kits to pregnant individuals (food boxes, diapers, formula).
– Delivering client care kits containing games, arts, and cultural crafts for all ages.
– Maintaining client contact and providing counselling services via phone, teleconference, social media, etc.
– Providing harm reduction supplies.
– Providing prescription pick-up and delivery.

Thank you to staff, volunteers, leaders, frontline workers, knowledge keepers, and every community member doing their best to help one another and protect the health and safety of their communities. We are stronger when we work together.

Please contact us at communications@bcaafc.com if there is anyway that we can collaborate to better serve communities during this time.