Helping People Start Over

– Story by Bissell Centre Drop-in Staff Member

A gentleman came into the drop-in about 8 weeks ago. He approached me and asked about several of our programs. Further discussion revealed he is a recovering alcoholic that had relapsed for the last four months and lost his home and job.

We met daily for three weeks when he decided to detox and head to AA to resume work with his sponsor. I encouraged him in this and provided bus tickets. Two more weeks passed and he regained his sobriety. He remained sober despite many stressors and I encouraged him daily with affirmations and active listening.  Last week he told me he wanted to go try out for a job. I encouraged him and offered tickets to get him to the appointment.

He has good skills and believed this would assist him to get back into an apartment and off the street. He seemed to me to be a very motivated individual so I believed him about the interview. We role played and I tried to be as supportive as possible. Friday last week he came into the drop-in beaming. He was offered a job! It was very apparent how happy he was when he showed me his letter of offer for a very well paid position.  I coached him around self confidence and gave some referrals for assistance with addictions when working.

He thanked me and asked about housing. I referred him to our Adult Support progam and instructed him as to what he needed to do to get funds for the first month’s rent and some start up funds for returning to work.  Today I saw him and he showed me the copy of his lease. He moves in the 25th of January and starts his new job the 23rd. I am very happy for him. He told me he could not have done it without me. I told him I could not have done “it” were HE not so motivated and skilled and in the end it was he not me that “done it”.  He promised to send a postcard to the Bissell from his first international posting. BRAVO!!!

JOE FM Gathers Winter Clothing Donations

Bissell Centre got a call from J’Lyn Nye from Corus Radio’s JOE FM!  She wanted to know if Bissell would benefit from some donations of warm, winter clothes.  I said, “Of course we could!” as our clients visit our Community Closet for their clothing needs – especially when it gets cold.  When I asked her what had inspired her, she said that she was at home watching the news, when the idea came to her, “I must do something for Edmontonians who don’t have enough warm clothes!” 


One idea, a couple calls, some on-air announcements and several tweets later the Corus lobby was full of donations.

More than ten bags of winter coats, sweaters, gloves, mitts, toques, scarves and so much more were delivered to us.  A single thought from a person with a caring heart created a tremendous movement to provide warmth for those who are cold and often at risk for frostbite.

Bissell Centre is creating a movement to end poverty.  We are partnering with individuals, businesses, schools and anyone who yearns to see all people housed, employed, and living a life where their basic daily needs – and more – are met.

Thank-you to J’Lyn, her co-host Gary, and the myriad of others who made this possible!

Facts and Their Story

Here are a few statistics gleaned from the recently released 2011 Tracking the Trends report published by the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

  • Between 2000 and 2010, a nutritious food basket for a family of four increased $69.99 per week, rising to $196.02 per week, an increase of 55%.
  • From 2000 to 2011, average rents increased as follows:
    • Bachelor Suite: from $421 to $731, (+ 73.6%)
    • 1 – bedroom : from $489 to $842 (+72.2%)
    • 2- bedroom : from $601 to $1,029 (71.2%)
    • 3- bedroom: from $670 to $1,224 (82.7%)
  • One in five unattached individuals (20.3%) lives in poverty, twice the rate for all family units (10%). (The number of single individuals has increased 50.5% since 1999 and 158% since 1979, a significantly higher rate than the growth in the number of families.)
  • One in four lone parent families (mostly female) are poor.
  • One in three (33.3%) youth-led families lives below LICO, three times the average for all families in metro Edmonton.  Youth led is defined as 24 years old and under.
  • In Edmonton 41,000 children under 18 years of age (15.4% of all children) lived below LICO in 2009, a decrease of 3,000 since 1999, but twice the number in 2007.
  • In 2009 the percentage rate of children from two parent families living below LICO rose from 2.2% in 2005 to 13.5%.  For female headed lone parent families, in the same time-frame the percentage dropped from 42.9% to 28.5%.
  • 73% of children living in poverty have parents who work.
  • One in four Aboriginal children lives in poverty.
  • The overall median total income for the Edmonton workforce  has increased 12.7% , from 1999 to 2009, far less growth than the cost of food and accommodation.
  • The median income for seniors was $18,400 in 2009, 11.5% lower than in 1999. Imagine how seniors are doing today with the increases in food and accommodation.
  • The median income of two-parent families with children increased 23.2% between 1999 and 2009. Most families are doing okay, but their incomes are erroding, given the costs of food and accommodation.
  • The value of Alberta Income Support payments (for those expected to work) has decreased markedly since the 1980s. Since 1993, the value of basic and shelter allowances for families has decreased 38.0% for single parents, and 36.1% for two-parent families. The value of allowances for single adults has decreased 2.7% since 1993.
  • In 2011 Alberta Works allowances are about half the value what they were in 1981.
  • The value of AISH has decreased 1.4% between 1998 and 2008.
  • In 2009, the Alberta Government raised AISH benefits by 9.2%, bringing the value of AISH benefits back to the 1992 level. No increase has taken place since 2009. Just over 15,900 Edmontonians are on AISH, nearly three times the number than in 1995.

Please remember the first two statistics:

Food up 55% (2000-2010) and accommodation has increased between 71 and 83% depending on the size of family.

Income growth has not come close to funding these increases in basic need expenditures for all families. Imagine what people making minimum wage are facing.

Income security programs have been decreased markedly in the last ten years despite the incredible escalation of basic need expenditures.

These trends affect all of us, but even more so those on fixed incomes, who make insufficient wages, and who rely on income security programs that do not come close to even providing subsistence.

Bissell Centre’s vision is to eliminate poverty.

We are keen to hear your ideas and advice about what YOU think we should do to achieve that goal!

Give us your comments below or give our CEO a call at 780 969 5163

What It’s Like to Go Without Food

The constant struggle to get enough food takes a heavy toll. It wears on the body, mind and soul. Food is literally the fuel for life—when there isn’t enough, all areas of life are affected.

For many people, the impact wears on all three areas:

“The hardest part is all the walking. I am 7 months pregnant. My ankles are swollen and sore. I must walk around 5 miles a day to get to various places for food and shelter.”

“I don’t feel good enough because I can’t build energy. Your self-esteem goes so low and my self-confidence because I can’t provide food for my kids.”

“When the kids don’t have enough food, they get cranky. When they’re not fed properly, they get sick more often and have more health problems in general. They’re not as active. I really do think if affects attitude.”

These quotes come from people who have experienced hunger and struggle to find enough to eat. A few years back Bissell Centre released a report called “Living without Food,” which is as relevant today as it was when it was published. I encourage you to read it, to understand what it is like to go without what most of us take for advantaged.

What is Bissell Centre doing?

We provide a meal to 200 or more people per day in our drop-in centre, as well as bag lunches for the participants in our casual labour program, and meals within other programs like our Women’s group and Child Care Centre.

As well, Bissell is currently the lead agency in an interagency exploration around food security, funded by the City of Edmonton. The final report will be out in March or April. Out of it we hope to identify additional strategies to address hunger and food security.

See our program listing to understanding even more about how we are helping people move beyond poverty, hunger, and homelessness.