We’re proud to announce that our Outreach Housing Team has met its ambitious goal of housing 200 people—and they did it 3 months ahead of schedule!
In early 2015, students from Strathcona High School raised $190,000 for Bissell Centre as part of their Treehouse Project fundraiser. These funds went towards establishing our Outreach Housing Team (OHT), a new program dedicated to locating, engaging, and housing people who are homeless. Since then, the OHT has successfully housed 200 people, a figure that continues to climb with each passing week.
One of the people helped by our Outreach Housing Team is “Steven,” who up until last year was homeless and sleeping in the River Valley. Steven’s social anxiety stopped him from accessing the help he needed. “At the time I was very bad with communicating with people,” he says. “I didn’t like phone calls.” But Steven knew he needed to make a change, and decided to contact Bissell Centre. He was quickly put in touch with our Outreach Housing Team, who found him a house in August 2015.
Since then, Steven has returned to school and is working on a marketing degree. He has plans to start his own business after graduation. Even though he was at first afraid to ask for help, he encourages anyone who is in the same position to reach out to someone. “You have to do it,” he says. “Life is damn scary. But you have to walk into the dark a bit sometimes to find the light.”
“Life is damn scary. But you have to walk into the dark a bit sometimes to find the light.”
— Steven, Housing Participant
Because there are few strict criteria that a candidate must meet to be eligible to access OHT services, people who do not qualify for similar housing initiatives can almost always get help through OHT. The team’s focus on keeping the paperwork to a minimum has made the housing process simple and streamlined, allowing them to house more people with fewer resources than other housing programs.
“It’s amazing how much you guys help,” says Steven. “Anyone who needs help – phone the Outreach Housing Team. They’re the ones that care, and they’ll do what it takes to get you off the streets. There are organizations who get thirty or forty million dollars in funding a year who don’t do as much.”
We are proud of the work the OHT has done over the past several months. But now, as funds dwindle and resources become scarcer, the support of the community has never been more important. It began with a group of extraordinary high school students and has resulted in 200 people like Steven finding homes and new hope for the future. Our hope is that the OHT will continue to grow and evolve with the help of our caring, dedicated community.
Thank you for your support!
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We were excited to host our 105th Annual General Meeting on Thursday, July 7th. Thank you to the Board of Governors, supporters, and staff for attending!
This was the first AGM for our new CEO, Gary St. Amand and for our new Board Chair, Ken Ristau. For our long-standing Board Member, Bobbie Wildgoose, this was her last AGM after six years on the Board being instrumental with supporting our vision to eliminate poverty in our community.
Also, this was the last AGM attended by Reverend Lynn Maki, who is with the United Church of Canada, Alberta & Northwest Conference, as she is retiring after her long and dedicated support of Bissell Centre and other organizations.
Highlights of our 2015-16 Annual Report include:
- In October 2015, we opened up Canada’s first housing complex to provide around-the-clock support for people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
- Our Community Bridge prevented 215 evictions from occurring, ending the threat of homelessness for individuals and families in Edmonton.
- 132 adults and children were housed through our Outreach Housing Team, which was launched in July 2015 with the purpose to engage with people who are homeless in our city and find them stable housing.
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Thank you to everyone for making 2015-16 a successful year for helping people living in poverty. We look forward to another year with providing the necessary supports and care for people in our community.
Summer is finally here! Bissell Centre’s camps and recreation team have been working hard to plan for the approaching summer months. Spearheading the effort are Alyssa, a fourth year recreation, sport, and tourism major at the University of Alberta, and Zoée, a King’s University graduate who is now pursuing her degree in social work at MacEwan University.
Alyssa and Zoée have been busy preparing for Bissell Centre’s annual summer camps. The camps will take place at Bissell Centre’s lakefront property, Moonlight Bay, which is located an hour west of Edmonton on Wabamun Lake. Beginning on July 4, Moonlight Bay will host a series of summer camps for adults and children of all ages. Camp trips range from one to four days and include an array of fun activities including teepee weaving, popcorn and s’mores by the fire, swimming, and canoeing.
For many participants, the trip will be a brief respite from otherwise persistently stressful life circumstances. Many adults and children participating in the camps come from environments of domestic violence, drug addiction, and poverty. “Everyone needs time away to spend with family and to rejuvenate, relax, and get away from those stresses,” Zoée says. Camps also provide opportunities for individuals to forge friendships, build community, and strengthen social supports.
Both Zoée and Alyssa are adamant that recreation is not a luxury or a privilege: it’s a physical and emotional need. “There needs to be recreation,” says Alyssa. “That shouldn’t be denied to anyone.”
Since 1929, Bissell Centre’s Moonlight Bay facility has been a destination for low-income families to enjoy some respite from the daily life stresses that face them. The program relies on donations and volunteer support to remain in operation. Thank you for helping us give adults and children living in poverty a summer experience they will never forget!