On Sunday, the Brandon Bear Clan put together their second-ever mock youth patrol, where volunteers aged 10 to 17 were given the opportunity to see what the adult group normally goes through on a weekly basis.
This involved walking around the city’s downtown core for about an hour and handing out supplies to people in need, whether they required warm winter clothing, sanitary products or food.
Every once in a while, the volunteers also stopped to check for used needles in a parking lot or alleyway, although they came up empty-handed this time around.
These new recruits eventually returned to Bear Clan headquarters at the Brandon Friendship Centre around 4 p.m. to fill up on some hot chocolate and process what they just experienced.
"It was a bit different from what I expected," said 14-year-old Jordan Stewart from École Secondaire Neelin High School, who just finished her first patrol. "It put things in perspective, to see how some people have to live."
Both Stewart and her mother Arlene said they would be interested in coming back for another patrol, wanting to help as many people as possible.
This new initiative, which first hit the streets on Nov. 5, is being spearheaded by Brandon Bear Clan youth co-ordinator Marshall Morrisseau, who is looking to harness the involvement of kids and teens that’s already been a part of this neighbourhood watch group for a while.
"They kind of already had a few youth groups in and around the city who were participating by making care kits or doing food runs and stuff like that," he said. "So we wanted to get them more involved and give them that opportunity to actually be a part of the patrol."
Brandon Bear Clan member Lisa Ramsay said these patrols are also important because it helps local youth shake the negative stigma associated with homelessness and the mentally ill.
"We’re trying to help people see the humanity in the people that we’re serving," she said. "We don’t need to be afraid of each other. These are folks that are just struggling. They just want to be fed."
Morrisseau said he is trying to put these youth patrols together at least once a month and use the rest of his time visiting local schools to spread awareness for the group.
"Because right now I’m going into school divisions, engaging with other youth groups, just creating awareness, because not a lot of people know this is a thing," he said.
The Brandon Bear Clan first began patrolling city streets in June 2017, following in the footsteps of their big brother from Winnipeg, who were originally formed in 1992 to help provide safety, solidarity and support to struggling members of the Indigenous community.
Since then, Bear Clan chapters have popped up all over the province, having expanded to Portage la Prairie last week.
While this latest development is very positive, Ramsay said the Brandon chapter is still in need of support and hopes these youth patrols can help bolster their ranks in the future.
"Anybody who wants to experience this, we welcome them so we can keep growing," she said. "We know the community wants us to be in other neighbourhoods, too. We’d love to be able to meet that need, but we just need a little bit more help."
Even though the date for their next youth patrol hasn’t been set, Morrisseau encourages anyone interested in future Brandon Bear Clan patrols to follow their Facebook page or email them at email@example.com.
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