A Message from our CEO
As you know, here in the Greater Edmonton Area, real winter often doesn’t emerge until Christmas is over and the new year has begun. Some days in January, February and even March, temperatures are consistently below freezing. And if we’re cold, it means that our friends who are facing poverty and homelessness are colder.
During this tough time of year, it’s especially important that we’re active about empowering people who are struggling. After all, one in eight Edmontonians live in poverty—many of them children. If you can even encourage just one person, you are making a difference.
Of course, if you’re a donor, you already know this! Thank you for everything you’ve already given, particularly during the Christmas season. Your gifts were what brought everyone together like a big family for deliciously festive Christmas meals and our New Year’s Day Dinner.
We truly believe that celebrating life and growth is an important step toward healing, and we’re grateful for the opportunities you have made possible with your generosity. With your help, we want to continue encouraging each of our guests to give themselves a chance to start anew.
Gary St Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre
Annie Finds a Home
Thanks for Supporting our Outreach Housing Team
Being homeless means seldom being safe. At Bissell Centre, our Outreach Housing Team works to locate, engage and house people who are homeless, providing follow-up support to those who have already been housed as well.
Annie is one person who was recently housed with the help of Bissell Centre’s Outreach Housing Team. The youngest of seven siblings, Annie grew up in the Northwest Territories, and home life wasn’t easy. When she was just 15 years old, her father died, and her family fell apart. Annie was picked on, even beaten up. She never felt safe from the abuse and would dread returning home each day.
Fifteen years ago, she moved to Edmonton, but faced similar struggles when she moved in with her boyfriend. They each brought a lot of personal challenges into the relationship, and it was stopping them both from growing individually and together. Annie turned to alcohol to cope with severe bouts of depression. But of course, drinking did not erase her sadness and only made matters worse. Though their relationship was not positive, Annie felt obligated to stay for the sake of their son. But finally, Annie decided that she needed to leave her boyfriend if she was ever going to get her life on track and be a better mother to her boy.
After three years of living in limbo, Annie moved into a women’s shelter. There, a friend referred her to Bissell Centre, telling her about the Outreach Housing Team. The idea that she could have her own apartment seemed like a fairy-tale—impossible!—but she applied anyway. She couldn’t believe it when she found out she was accepted into the program!
“It’s just the right size… and we feel a lot safer.” ‑Annie
Annie moved into her own apartment on November 10, 2016, with her 11-year-old son.
“Some folks at Bissell Centre brought me some dishes for my new place, and some gift certificates and food,” says Annie. “Any time I need transportation, they come and pick me up. It’s a really big help, and they’re still helping me whenever I need it.”
Annie’s apartment has two bedrooms, so her son can live with her. “It’s just the right size,” she says. “It’s really good for my son, too. We talk a lot now, and we feel a lot safer.”
Today, Annie is considering returning to school and doing some upgrading, as well as beginning to look for a job. She knows that doing these thing will be a lot easier now that she has her own place to call home. “Ever since I left and got my own place, I don’t even think about drinking anymore,” says Annie. “I’m so much happier than before. Now I can turn around and make fun of my old self. Some things are hard but I’m still laughing.”
At Bissell Centre, we believe that housing issues should be addressed before any other barriers in an individual’s life. Thank you for everything you’ve given to help people like Annie, through programs like our Outreach Housing Team.
Don and Helen Mayne’s Story of Generosity
Don Mayne grew up during the Great Depression, in the midst of poverty. His father was a reverend, and, in some of his congregations over the years, only 2 or 3 people would have jobs. Growing up in poverty helped him want to give back, when he got the chance.
Don’s connection to Bissell Centre dates back to 1930, when it was still called All Peoples’ Mission. He and his wife, Helen, believe that Bissell Centre is doing a tremendous amount of good for the community—especially through programs such as the Drop-in Centre, Family Support Services, and the Outreach Housing Team. “The people who are working at Bissell Centre are truly concerned about those facing poverty. It’s not just a job,” says Don.
“We’re glad that we can contribute. It gives us peace of mind.” ‑Don
Over the years, Don and Helen have advocated for Bissell Centre passionately, spreading awareness in local churches and encouraging others to give. They themselves have been donors for many years and in 2012, committed to giving monthly—joining what we now like to call our group of Community Heroes!
“It’s just a part of life now,” says Don about their gift-giving. “We’re glad that we can contribute. It gives us peace of mind.”
We are incredibly thankful for the unwavering support of this wonderful couple, and hope their story inspires you too!
Looking Forward to Easter!
Help us Prepare
As we look forward to Easter and celebrating the coming of spring, it’s important to remember people who have been hit hardest by the winter cold. The days and nights are only gradually warming up, and our neighbours in need turn to Bissell Centre knowing they can find a warm, caring, and supportive community. At Easter, we always serve a special, traditional meal. This year, we’re expecting to serve more than 350 meals but it’s only possible with your support! Meals like this are perfect opportunities for our staff, volunteers and guests to come together like family and nourish relationships abounding in encouragement.