Critical Support During COVID-19

ECF grant enables Native Counselling Services of Alberta to provide personal protective equipment, technology and online services to Edmonton’s Indigenous communities.

“Any time you can get funding to deal with something on an emergency basis, that’s a win,” said Robyn Scott, Director of Justice for Native Counselling Services of Alberta. “Just the rapid response to the Rapid Response Grant application was amazing!”

More than 10,000 clients access the supports of Native Counselling Services of Alberta (NCSA) each year.

The organization supports Indigenous people who are navigating justice, family services, corrections, housing and education systems. It runs two Indigenous corrections facilities in Edmonton, and produces free Indigenous Public Legal Education resources.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Scott and her colleagues still needed to provide support to their clients, as NCSA has been doing for the past half-century.

Much of that outreach needed to continue, and almost all of the NCSA outreach staff would be dealing with clients in face-to-face situations. Both staff and clients needed to be protected.

Scott said they needed help coordinating the purchase of ongoing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies and distribution. “We’re small in terms of management scale, so people here were doing it off the sides of their desk.”

NCSA received immediate PPE free right away from supplies being distributed through Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF). Then, a $15,500 grant from ECF’s Rapid Response Fund enabled NCSA to create a three-month outreach coordinator position and to purchase supplies to meet their staff’s and clients’ safety protocol needs. Scott notes that NCSA was even able to access free PPE right away, through supplies that Edmonton Community Foundation was handing out in the early stage of the pandemic.

”We’re in our 50th year as an agency, and we tend to keep our staff for a long time. We have hundreds of years of experience in the agency,” Scott added.

“That the ECF trusted that we knew what we needed was a big piece of being able to continue to carry out our work without a big proposal. It was so helpful in a time of stress. It has been so fluid. Everybody does such amazing work. But in a time of upheaval and change and fluidity, these people are even more amazing.”

Cynthia Arcand, NCSA’s regional manager in Edmonton, echoes that the grant was made available at such a critical time, as the organization responded to increasing needs with ever-changing safety protocols.

Arcand says the grant extended into helping NCSA to keep feeding people who were living in transitional housing such as Cunningham Place and Indigenous Housing First Edmonton. It also helped in the purchasing of technology to allow online meetings between parents and their children, and Elders and community members who needed support, and children who were sent home from school and expected to keep up with studies electronically.

“Some populations just don’t have access to the Internet,” Arcand said.

Despite the many difficulties, she believes NCSA has risen to the challenge. “There was no manual, but we had to figure it out. After all, this is what we’re supposed to be doing. In a time of crisis, we’re needed the most.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.