Bissell Centre employee, Sissy Thiessen, shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is the final part of a three-part series.
By: Sissy Thiessen
All Sides of the Coin – Part 3: My Role of Employee
To my surprise, my journey with Bissell Centre did not end after my time volunteering and participating in the summer of 2009. Three years after entering the doors of the Robert Tegler Friendship Room for the first time, I finally returned to Bissell. But this time, not as a volunteer or participant.
Ever since the day a speaker from Bissell came to my high school, a seed was planted in my mind that made me want to be within the centre. Even after I volunteered and moved on to spend three years in another city being a University student, active volunteer and employee, I still found myself thinking about coming back to Bissell. Upon returning home to Edmonton after my studies, I decided I wanted to work at Bissell Centre.
On my first attempt, I had applied for a position within Bissell’s Homeless to Homes program, a program aimed at providing clients in need with stable housing and access to income supports. I was unsuccessful, but had learned more about the amazing support Bissell provides to inner city Edmontonians. I also felt like I put my name on a list and that someday, someone would recognize my drive, passion and eagerness to work for an organization that directly assists people. And I was right.
In October 2012, I applied for and accepted a position within Employment Services, which assists participants looking to enter or re-enter the workforce. Manager, Mark Bubel, said my passion and writing skills were apparent in my letter of intent and after interviewing me, was gracious enough to take a chance on me. I was given an opportunity to prove to myself, as well as the organization, why I kept feeling the need to return.
I started my position as an Employment Support Worker on a relief basis at the end of October, and have gained a multitude of knowledge, experience and transferable skills since commencing employment. I have learned the inner workings of a non-profit organization, how to provide someone with the skills required to succeed in life and the workforce, conflict resolution and most importantly, I have learned how to empower someone. I have had the opportunity to work within a well organized social service agency that directly works toward eliminating poverty in our community.
Through my time spent in Employment Services, I have also gained valuable skills to assist me on my own career path. I came to help others and by the graciousness of this organization and its leaders, I have also been helped in return. I was even granted the opportunity to utilize my education in Journalism and work within Marketing and Communications a few hours a week.
At the time being, I have been offered a permanent, full-time position in a project-support role for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services (FASS). This program works to enhance our community’s understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), how to prevent it, as well as supports individuals and families affected by FASD. I am so thankful for all the opportunities Bissell has provided me with thus far, which have exemplified what it means to be genuinely compassionate, empathetic and courageous. These experiences have also taught me one of the most important lessons I think can be taught- the true power of the human spirit in the face of the most challenging obstacles. My life has been given new direction and meaning, and I am grateful my path has lead me back to Bissell Centre. I look forward to my future within this organization, as well as the continued generosity and lessons that accompany it.
This is the story shared with Bissell Centre by one of our supporters, Patti Jones. Thank you for passing it along to us and allowing it to be shared! We hope it encourages you, your family, your community and/or your place of work to talk about how we view our most vulnerable and what we might be able to do to help.
My mom always said, “help should begin at home.”
My dad was divorced from my mom when I was six months old. He was an alcoholic most of his life and struggled with his own demons. He lived in the inner city of most of his life – the last few in a rooming house not far from the downtown station. He didn’t give us a lot of opportunity to see him often, but it’s organizations like yours [Bissell Centre] that gave him some hope to get through another day. It also gives families, who are in situations similar to our families, the peace of mind that there are places their loved ones can go to for help.
You truly build a community with those in need, either impoverished or homeless, and it still makes me smile.
I recall one visit my sister and I made to our dad not long before he passed away. He took us on a walk through the neighbourhood late at night, which was a little scary for me and my sister. We went to the liquor store to buy him alcohol, because that was easier to bear than the alternative (that he might pick through garbage to find bottles to exchange for cash to pay for his booze). It was one way we could show him love – understanding that he wasn’t going to change or stop drinking. When we walked with him, many of the street people knew him, (as Freddy McDougall), and we had the opportunity to say hello to his friends. It didn’t take us any longer than that walk to learn they truly look after each other.
A few months after that night, my father had not been seen for a few days around the rooming house and it was one of those friends who called the police to report it. The police broke down his door to get in his room and that is when he was found. He had passed away from what they believe was heart failure. Had it not been for such a tight community in that rooming house and neighbourhood, he could have been left unfound much longer. Read More…
Recently out of jail, a man came to Bissell Centre looking to make a change in his life. He showed a great deal of motivation, but needed some assistance to gain additional skills and confidence to start a career and get a full-time job. He joined our Moving Up pre-employment program and looked to his peers and program facilitator for support. Through the course of the four week program we helped him develop a work plan, complete job searches, and pick an industry for work – construction!
Through the training (safety tickets), coaching, supported job searches, resume building, and interview skills he received, he now is working full-time in the construction industry and making $27/hour!
If you would like to support our work in helping people make positive changes in their life, and motivating them to move from poverty to prosperity, please visit our Donate page.
We are currently recruiting for 8 new positions to complete our new 24/7 Crisis Service Diversion Team (CSDT). These positions are called Complex Support Workers and they will be responsible for providing support to referred participants through interventions and diversion services. The goal of the program is to decrease the inappropriate dependency of participants on medical services, police and judicial services.
Some of the Complex Support Workers’ responsibilities include:
• Develop personal plans with participants and empower them in the achievement of their goals.
• Make appropriate supported referrals to housing, health and community services and provide advocacy support services with, or on behalf of, individuals as needed.
• Provide flexible one-on-one case management depending on the needs of the individual.
• Ensure placement in shelters, detox and short-term/immediate housing as needed and transitioned into permanent housing as able.
Some of the qualifications for the role are:
• Degree or Diploma in Social Science or related discipline.
• Minimum of one year related employment experience.
• Alberta Class 5 License, satisfactory driver’s abstract and a vehicle.
• Strong interpersonal skills, results oriented, good time management, strong organizational and problem-solving skills.
• Good working knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel programs.
• Familiarity with issues of poverty, homelessness and Edmonton’s urban core.
• Familiarity working with high risk populations and an understanding of Aboriginal cultures, history and current issues.
Review of applications will begin on 6th February 2013. Selection and hiring will continue until all vacancies for this position are filled.
Interested candidates are invited to view the full job posting here – Complex Support Worker 240113 – and submit a resume and cover letter (see details in the posting).