'Being an advocate for those who can't': A morning with Regina's community support program

The goal of the new outreach pilot program is to help those affected by mental health, addictions and homelessness while providing safety for all residents in the city's core.

Team responds to non-emergency calls downtown by public and police

Downtown Regina's community support team, Alyssa Marinos, Alejandra Cabrera and Alex Lien, make downtown safe from providing water on a hot day to mental health help. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

The logo on the downtown Regina's community support team's dark grey uniforms illustrates what the program represents: a helping hand.

The goal of the new outreach pilot program is to help those affected by mental health, addictions and homelessness while providing safety for all residents in the city's core.

"I've always just been passionate about community and been passionate about helping others, being an advocate for those who can't," said Alyssa Marinos, the program's supervisor.

Team members connect with people in the community to build relationships, make wellness checks and respond to non-emergency calls by local businesses, the public and police.

The Regina Downtown Business Improvement District launched the program in partnership with the City of Regina and the Regina Police Service early this year.

The community support team walks through Regina's Victoria Park on one of their daily circuits of downtown Regina. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

The team walks the downtown area carrying water, snacks, a first aid kit and naloxone, a medicine used to treat opioid overdoses. They are trained in de-esclalation, 2SLGBTQ+ and cultural awareness, trauma-informed practices and suicide intervention.

They start their day by doing a loop through Victoria Park, Scarth Street and other areas they know vulnerable individuals may frequent.

Marinos said making sure that members of the community are healthy and supported can lead to better safety in Regina's downtown.

"I think it's important to show the community at all levels that everybody is worth care and concern. I think if we want to talk about making change on a big level, we need to start at the ground level. And so this is probably the best way to start doing that, these day to day interactions with the community, being a presence," she said.

Reduce calls to police, connect to community agencies

Marinos said businesses or individuals can call the team directly and they'll respond to assess the situation, whether it is someone in a mental health crisis, or someone that just needs access to food or water.

During the heatwave, the Regina Farmers' Market called the team to help with people suffering from heat stroke. The team responded with water and connected people with cool down stations in the city.

"I know that from working downtown, there's a lot of calls to police that aren't always necessary. So I kind of always wanted to see or be a part of something that was an in-between, that was more preventative than reactionary," said Alejandra Cabrera, a member of the community support team who has worked and lived downtown for nearly a decade.

If someone needs access to a community service, the team can help them find it and even fill out paperwork if needed.

Cabrera said the best part of the job is the relationships she's made with people who frequent downtown.

"Even when I'm not working, if they see me and they say 'Hi,' it feels good to know that they feel comfortable and safe enough to say 'Hi' to me and they consider me like maybe even a friend," said Cabrera.

A committee has been set up to provide guidance for the program, made up of representatives from the Regina Downtown BID, City of Regina, Regina Police Service, a community service agency, an Indigenous Elder and a person with lived experience.

The team can be reached at 306-537-3727 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST on weekdays.


Samanda Brace

Current Affairs Associate Producer

Samanda Brace (she/her) is a Current Affairs Associate Producer where she gathers stories mainly for CBC radio's The Morning Edition. She has been with CBC Saskatchewan since 2014.