The camp centers around Lakota values, communal decision making and mutual aid. Volunteers serve as advocates, offering assistance for homeless people who want it, but not forcing anything on them.
“We’re not a charity,” said volunteer Mark Tilsen. “We’re not an outside Christian group who’s trying to convert these folks and get them on the path to sobriety. If people want to sober up, that’s cool, and if people come as they are, we still do our best to care for them and accept them.”
Volunteers are familiar with social services in town and have referred residents to them if they want to work on sobriety, obtaining permanent housing or other goals, said Red Bear, who also serves as director of racial equity at NDN Collective.
“Advocates do not force anything upon anyone but they just say, here’s my arsenal of resources, take what you need, let me know how I can help you,” she said. “We hold a safe, welcoming space for them to figure out what it is they want.”
The camp houses between 50 and 86 people a night, said Bettelyoun. It has a core group of volunteers with others helping more sporadically, and hundreds of people from across the country that offer support by donating money and gear.
The camp has also received several grants, including one from NDN Collective, that will ensure it stays open throughout the winter, Tilsen said.