Hitting the Streets to Help the Homeless

CITC’s Peer Support Team Gives Back

By Jamey Bradbury, courtesy of Cook Inlet Tribal Council

CITC Recovery Services employees Wesley Brewington (center), Rashad Arnsworth and Logan Cook hand out bottled water to those in need as part of a new outreach initiative. Photo by Jamey Bradbury.

What started as a small idea from the Peer Support Group has blossomed into an all-out effort by Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s (CITC) Peer Support Recovery team to lend Anchorage’s homeless community a helping hand. Since July of this year, the Peer Support team has distributed items like socks, hats, hygiene kits and water bottles to over 300 homeless individuals.

“This all started when the Peer Support Group wanted to do something more active instead of just meeting and talking,” explained Peer Support Recovery Supervisor Wesley Brewington. The Peer Support Group is one of several support groups that meets at CITC; this one is focused on those in all facets of recovery.

Inspired by wanting to act, the group went to Bean’s Café in July 2016 to hand out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless. “It was a huge hit,” Brewington remembered. “People really loved doing it. And it had huge therapeutic value for the folks in our group. People kept saying, ‘This is the best thing we’ve ever done!’ So we wanted to do something similar again, if we could.”

“It’s getting cold now, so it matters even more that we get out there and get gloves and socks to the people who need them,” said Brewington, who helped start CITC’s homeless outreach initiative. Photo by Jamey Bradbury.

After that first outing, the Peer Support Recovery team began posting flyers in CITC’s Nat’uh Service Center asking for donations of socks. They left a bin in the main lobby, and once they had enough donations, they took the socks into the community, giving them out to homeless individuals wherever they could be found. Since then, the group has refined its efforts, partnering with willing collaborators like Heart of the City Church, where community members have filled a donation barrel to the brim, twice, with donations for the homeless.

While the effort is intended to give the homeless population a hand, especially during the winter months, reaching out and helping the community in this way has huge benefits for those in recovery, Brewington said.

“I’ve been in recovery for almost five years, myself, and after all that I’ve taken from our community, having this opportunity to give back does a lot for me. Our vision is to give back as much as we can.

“We take a lot for granted,” he added. “Like socks — how many pairs do you have in your drawer? Dozens? Yet one pair of socks could be a treasure to someone living on the street.”

Anchorage has one of the highest per capita rates of homelessness in the country, and as the weather gets colder, Brewington pointed out, it only gets harder out on the streets. That’s why he and his co-workers will continue their effort into the winter.

Donation bins can be found at CITC and Heart of the City Church. To volunteer, contact Wesley Brewington at (907) 793-3221.