'That tiny bit of hope, it goes a long way': Peer support program aims to help Lethbridge's most vulnerable

Alvin Mills is the founder of the Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin Renewal and Healing Centre which is named after a Blackfoot word that means kindness for others

Melissa Many Fingers-Healy and Cody Fox have spent a large portion of their lives struggling with addiction.

They've both spent time living on the streets while struggling with alcohol and drugs.

Many Fingers-Healy said that at one point, she was certain she wasn't going to make it.

"I didn't think I'd live to see five years, I didn't even think I'd live to see another year," she told CTV.

"My family told me that they did, at one point, get themselves ready for my passing because they thought I was going to die on the streets."

Fox said there were times where he was ready to give up altogether, especially following the deaths of his father, brother and cousin.

"I could've gave up. I could've said what's the point of me not being here too, you know?"

Fortunately, thanks to Alvin Mills, founder of the Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin Renewal and Healing Centre, they were able to get the help they needed through the Kainai Wellness and Detox Centre.

According to Mills, Kii maa pii pii tsin is a Blackfoot word that he holds very dear to his heart.

"When you translate it, it means kindness to others, caring for others," said Mills.

"Kii maa pii pii tsin is a way of life for the Blackfoot people."

Mills has been helping people get clean and off the streets for years and doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

"It's always been our mandate to support and advocate for the at-risk and vulnerable population here in Lethbridge."

PEER SUPPORT

Now that they're clean, Fox and Many Fingers-Healy are helping Mills in the fight against drugs and homelessness by becoming peer support workers themselves.

They believe that if they can come back from where they were, anybody can.

"I'm thankful and grateful to be able to tell my story," said Fox.

"I'm hoping people will be able to realize that you can put that bottle down, put that pill down, put that pipe down. There's a life out there and you don't have to do that."

They also believe that the biggest way to get through to those struggling is by offering them just a little bit of hope.

"I'm just trying to give people hope because that's that one thing that everybody lacks, is that tiny bit of hope," said Many Fingers-Healy.

"That tiny bit of hope, it goes a long way. It really does."

Mills, his amazing peer support mentors and others with the Kii Maa Pii Pii Tsin Renewal and Healing Centre will be out most weekends handing out food and drink while spreading their messages of hope, determination and perseverance to those in need.

When asked, Mills said he couldn't have gotten two more inspiring people to help him help others.

"What they went through, you can't learn that," he said.

"You can't get a degree from what they went through. Their degree is from life itself."

To find out how you can help Mills and his peer support program, you can contact the Blackfoot Lodge in Lethbridge.