Michael Fatt’s phone has been ringing nearly non-stop since he put a notice out on Nov. 6 for residents to help him gather empty bottles and cans to raise money for Yellowknife families in need during Christmas.
An advocate for Yellowknife’s street-involved people, Fatt is also seeking to recruit people who might need work, particularly ex-criminals, gangsters and people struggling with addictions to help them get back on their feet and contributing to society.
A week after posting about his initiative on the Facebook page Salvagers Unite, he said he has raised more than $2,300, but it’s also been exhausting as it mostly involves him and a couple of other helpers.
“Bottles are not light and are quite heavy and so I am beat,” he said, chuckling.
“If people can take the caps off and sort them and maybe throw a sticky with a number on (their bags), then I can have an idea of what I have when I drop them off.”
He said details are still to be sorted out, however he expects that closer to Christmas he will arrange a day to shop for toys and have them set up in a room for families in need to drop by and pick up gifts.
Because of extra challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic is presenting for some people due to less job availability, he said some families are likely feeling additional cost pressures leading up to the holiday season. For this reason, it’s important that the community comes together in whatever way possible to help, he said.
Fatt explained that the work on this project is being done in affiliation with a national and international movement called the Crazy Indians Brotherhood.
He said there has been some interest from people who want to support his efforts but do not currently have empties. In that case, he said he opened an account at the Bottle Depot with his name and the account number 4455777. People can reference those at the Bottle Depot and contribute to his cause.
Fatt has also been leading a group known as Common Ground since a pilot project began in 2018 to get street-involved people working. The group runs year-round and provides low-cost maintenance work for people trying to get back on their feet. Because of recent snowfall since Halloween, he said demand has been picking up for snow clearance projects of various sizes.
Since Common Ground was launched as a pilot project more than two years ago, there have been about 100 people who have come and gone to work, but he has about 14 employees now.
“Those numbers are really to be expected, but our motto is basic in that we want to make sure the doors are open,” he said of people who want to work. “The bottom line is to open the doors for people because where they are right now, society stops them at the door.”
Fatt said Common Ground provides a chance for people looking for a way out.
“In another sense, we’re given them an opportunity so that it takes away any excuse to wallow and say there is nothing available. That is where the open doors idea comes from,” he explained.
He said residents or private business owners can reach out to him if they have snow clearing or sweeping or other manual labour jobs for his team to tackle.