Soon, the Squamish Nation will be delivering care packages to every member's home, filled with critical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic.
There will be up to 1,000 packages, containing items such as cleaning supplies and toilet paper for the 700 or so households on reserves or for pick-up at the office. It's just one of the ways the Nation is trying to support its members through the pandemic, according to Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson.
The Squamish Nation office is still open as of March 18, but with reduced staff. Some are working from home.
"Some of our cultural events and community events will have to be cancelled or postponed," Khelsilem said. "It does challenge some of our tradition around cancelling events, which is seen as a bit of a taboo. It's hard in that sense, but we feel that we're making the right decision to both protect our people, but also to prevent spreading this virus further."
The Nation is still providing some specific services such as lunches for the youth on spring break, keeping social distancing in mind. Lunches can be collected, and serve as a point to make sure everyone's doing OK.
He said they've heard concerns from members about those who need extra support.
"For some of our people who might be struggling financially or being laid off, but also access to cleaning supplies and things like that. I think for some of our elders, they're a little bit afraid, based off the news they're watching, to actually even go outside of the community," he said.
Nation staff is providing grocery deliveries to elders and calling all of them for check-ins to see what needs they have. Staff will pick up money and shopping lists and return with the purchases.
"I think in times like this, taking care of the ones that are the most vulnerable is our... objective. Our elders, based off what we know, are the ones who are the most at risk and where we're seeing that most of the deaths are happening in places like Italy, the U.S. and in Canada. We're trying to reduce their possible contamination with the virus, and protect them."
In the meantime, some services are continuing via phone or video. Counselling for mental health and addiction support will move to these methods, with exceptions made if there is a crisis in the community.
"We want to maintain the support, especially through crises like this that can produce a lot of anxiety and I think can be triggering for people. I think we want to try and maintain core services for people as much as we can," Khelsilem said.
Programs at the Trades Training Centre were held until this week, and everything else is being postponed. Income assistance is still available, but office hours for drop-in are reduced. At this time, requests for Squamish Nation memberships are being paused, as the Nation focuses on higher priority services.
"Leadership and our staff are working around the clock to respond to the crisis and we are thinking about all of our members and all of our employees, and are just trying to do our best right now."
Updates will be posted to the Nation's website at www.squamish.net, where members can also find contact information for services.