Reflections from the CEO and Board Chair
As you know, the social and economic landscape of our world has changed because of the pandemic. Access to supports for people experiencing poverty and homelessness is more important than ever. That’s why our essential programs have been modified to ensure the safety of participants and staff, and are still up and running.
In this Annual Report, you’ll discover how your gifts have made a difference this past year.
With your help, our child care program provided much-needed relief to 4680 families facing poverty. Your generosity has also allowed us to begin construction on our innovative Early Learning and Child Care Centre, scheduled to open this fall.
These achievements are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more essential programs that have changed lives for the better this past year, thanks to your steady support. I hope you enjoy discovering some new programs at Bissell Centre in these pages. As always, I’m deeply grateful to you.
Thank you for helping to eliminate poverty in our city!
Gary St. Amand, CEO
What a year it has been! When I think about Bissell Centre’s staff, volunteers and supporters over the past year, one phrase comes to mind: ‘ready for anything.’
From adapting and adding programs to meet the changing needs of the community, to completely uprooting services to face a global health crisis—Bissell’s strong, dedicated team was there for those in greatest need.
I’m honoured to be part of a team that puts the needs of vulnerable individuals and families at the forefront of decision-making. Bissell’s focus on asset-based community development means that the future of Edmonton will include stronger communities that support one another.
I am filled with hope for the future of our city and its people, and I know that Edmontonians experiencing poverty and homelessness will continue to find the help they need because of the commitment of the team at Bissell and your steadfast support.
Thank you for your compassion.
Jill Matthew, Board Chair
Fred’s Story: Finding Purpose
My name is Fred. I honestly don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for Bissell Centre. I was completely down and out.
My marriage was falling apart, and I lost my job as a welder. Unable to cope, I left my family home without a real plan. I was suddenly on the streets—an experience that shook me to my core.
There were nights where I’d wonder to myself, “Am I going to sleep on a park bench tonight? Will I be mugged while I slept? What should I do?”
The hardest part of that time was losing my kids.
Thankfully, Alberta Jobs told me about Bissell Centre. When I first arrived, I was depressed and overwhelmed. I remember a staff member approached me and said, “You’ve come to the right place. Bissell Centre can help.”
Those words proved true.
They invited me to a four-day camp, where I could de-stress and find my confidence again. When I returned, I felt refreshed…like a new man.
Shortly after, their housing team helped me find my own apartment. They also referred me to free medical care and gave me access to everything I needed.
Without my family, holidays were often lonely. That’s why I’m grateful for the big meals at Bissell. I felt like I was a part of a community or a family. Community is important at Bissell.
I grew up in the kitchen with my father. Actually, all of the men in my family cook. That’s why I especially love being a participant in Bissell Centre’s community kitchen. I just love cooking.
The community kitchen is almost a social event. We share our life stories, where we’re going and where we’ve been. When I won custody of my seven-year-old son, everyone in the kitchen was happy that I’d gotten him back. I get to be a dad again, and that means everything!
There’s so much love in this place, it’s crazy.
Now that things are looking up, I like to give back. I’ve been volunteering to hand out snacks to other Bissell participants.
I’d like to thank Bissell Centre for helping me get my life back. And I want to thank you. Your gifts mean a second chance and a fresh start. I’ll be forever grateful to Bissell Centre and donors like you.
Programs With Purpose!
Our New Housing Outreach Prototype Pilot
Working alongside housing and support staff from Boyle Street Community Services with the support of Homeward Trust, Bissell launched a new pilot program to help more individuals experiencing chronic homelessness obtain and sustain long-term housing.
All three agencies share beliefs that housing is a human right, and that homelessness is a circumstance that leaves people with few opportunities to make their own choices. Recognizing that some people need unique supports, we decided to collaborate and share research, so more people could be successfully housed.
We are committed to finding creative ways to support people in their housing journey. Working as a team, staff meet with people wherever they are in the community, find an appropriate residence for that individual, and provide supports that continue throughout their tenancy. If someone needs help, we help them build connections and advocate alongside them.
Sustainable Livelihoods Through Super Clinics
Super Clinics are a new and innovative way of offering financial services here in Edmonton. They offer increased access to financial supports by providing everything in one place, at one time, at no cost. Offering such services in one place, such as a community centre or school, by staff with whom they already have a relationship, helps to eliminate obstacles that may prevent people from building sustainable livelihoods.
Individuals living in poverty are often focused on immediate needs. They are often not aware that saving for something like their child’s education is, in fact, possible. Super Clinics are a huge step forward in ensuring that people know there are options available to help them plan for a successful financial future.
During Super Clinics, people can file income tax, apply for government benefits, access ID, open bank accounts, set up Registered Education Savings Plan accounts and the Canada Learning Bond, and more. All of which help families successfully plan their future!
Training for Employment in Renewable Energy
People looking for work now have the chance to train for a new career in solar energy right here at Bissell! In partnership with NEWO Global Energy, with the help of adults who access our Employment Services program, 78 solar panels were installed on the roof of our Downtown West building. This green installation is already saving us thousands of dollars in electrical costs each year. In the first three months of its operation, our building’s carbon footprint was offset by 1.63 tons, which is the equivalent of 42 trees!
More people will benefit from the Solar Project, because of the training array that was included in the installation. Trainees can learn to disassemble and reassemble the panels without affecting Bissell’s power. This hands-on experience will bolster resumes and help more job-ready participants fit employers’ needs. Anyone interested in the renewable energy sector can now participate in this exciting new course.
Photo John Hanson CTV News Edmonton
Our Financial Overview
At Bissell Centre, we know how important it is to be accountable to our supporters. That’s why each and every year we work hard to fulfill our promises to you. By being transparent with how our funds are allocated, donors like you can see that your contributions are making real change in Edmonton.
To maintain the highest organizational standards, our Financial Team is responsible for ensuring that our financial records detail where every dollar is spent. It is essential to our work that you continue to trust and believe in us as we partner together to end poverty in our city.
Thank you for your steady support and for joining us in showing up for people experiencing hardship. You make everything we do possible!
All Thanks to You!
Your generosity throughout the year has made a tremendous impact on each and every life counted here in these statistics. Each number represents one of our neighbours in Edmonton. Every participant recorded in these numbers has their own story, their own strengths, and their own hopes and dreams.
Throughout 2019, your support has been life-changing for so many adults and families. Thank you for supporting a transformed Edmonton.