A Year of Change and Growth

It has been a year of challenges, change, and growth.

March 2020 marked the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, bringing with it changes to public health regulations and access to provincial services. Simultaneously, Alberta’s economy was facing falling oil prices that were negatively impacting its economy. The people most immediately affected by these abrupt changes were adults and families in low-income households.

Agencies and emergency support systems designed to assist those in need experienced unforeseen and unprecedented strain:

  1. Within 24 hours, day drop-in capacity went from 650 spots city-wide to 150 spots because of physical distancing requirements. Overnight shelters were equally challenged.
  2. People were further displaced as public facilities like libraries and recreation centers were forced to close. Many people experiencing poverty and homelessness who turned to these places for refuge from the weather, access to the internet, and to connect with supports now only had a handful of places to turn to.
  3. Families and individuals who were new to homelessness or threatened with imminent eviction because of a sudden loss of income, were now turning to social service agencies for help as they tried to navigate and access supports.

The number of people in Edmonton struggling with homelessness rose dramatically.

The pandemic pushed Bissell Centre to think creatively. We had to find solutions to continue to offer our services to even more people while ensuring that staff, participants, and the community were kept safe.

The way in which we delivered most programs shifted, these included our online service delivery, location changes, unique supports to combat loneliness brought on by isolation, and dropping off supplies directly to families and individuals.

Throughout, we have remained steadfast in our efforts to support people in need.

From Grief to Hope: David’s Story

My name is David and the holidays are a lonely time for me. You see, I lost my entire family in three tragic accidents.

I couldn’t cope with the grief, so turned to substances to find peace. Thankfully, Bissell Centre was there to pick me up when I needed help.

So how did I get here? Ten years ago, my wife and I were living our dream, running a successful catering business in Vancouver. But that was before a drunk driver took my wife’s life. My wife was my partner, my best friend—I didn’t know how to go on without her.

The heartbreak was still fresh for me when six weeks later a work accident claimed the life of my 23 year-old son. His harness broke during a brutal storm when he was checking mobile towers. In the blink of an eye, he was gone.

I thought things couldn’t get any worse, but I was wrong.

A few months later, I got a call that my daughter’s car had veered from the road on her way to Whistler. The snow flurries made it nearly impossible to see. By the time she was found, she’d frozen to death in her car.

For a long time, I used alcohol to numb the pain of losing my wife and children. Eventually, I got really sick and was sent to Edmonton for rehab.

But with sobriety came more darkness. So I turned to heroin.

Whenever I used, I was depressed and alone—must trying to forget my reality.

My rock-bottom came when I was arrested for carrying drugs. In jail, I had a lot of time to think about the man I wanted to become. I knew I needed to make some huge changes if I wanted to be happy again and become the man my beloved wife and kids knew me to be.

Bissell Centre was the first place I went after being released.

The staff greeted me with kindness. Instead of judging me, they smiled, welcomed me and handed me a warm plate of food. The staff told me about their mental health and housing support programs, and I was blown away.

For the first time, I realized that I didn’t have to rebuild my life alone.

Program Highlights

Supporting Families Through Childcare

For many families experiencing poverty, affordable childcare can seem impossibly out of reach. With help from donors like you, Bissell Centre has relocated and expanded our services. Today, we’re able to offer quality childcare to even more parents who can’t afford regular rates.

As you know, affordable childcare is a vital resource for families who are struggling to escape the cycle of poverty. Most often, parents will drop off their children at our childcare centre so they can work, go to school, attend medical appointments, search for housing, prepare for job interviews, or just take a much-needed break.

Take a look inside the new space by watching the video available on our website at bissellcentre.org/inside-newchild-care.

COVID-19 Emergency Response Accommodation

In the fall of 2020, Bissell Centre was proud to partner with the City of Edmonton in collaboration with Boyle Street Community Services , The Mustard Seed, and the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society to provide a warm, safe space for individuals experiencing homelessness. Starting on October 30th, our staff joined hands with these local organizations to offer 24-hour emergency response accommodation at Tipinawâw, meaning sheltered from the elements, in the Edmonton Convention Centre.

There, we were able to offer around-the-clock support and services for hundreds of people. These services included access to warm beds, food, and clothing distribution—as well as access to health and wellness support, including harm-reduction services.

A series of 5 videos was produced to tell the story of Tipinawâw

Housing Loss Prevention

Our Community Bridge program is about finding practical ways for people to reduce their bills and increase their monthly income to help manage the cost of living. The team offers:

  • Financial coaching to create a sustainable budget
  • Help to develop financial action plans
  • Help looking for benefits assistance
  • Supports to people as they negotiate with landlords and utility companies

The supports provided to each household is specifically tailored to address each unique circumstance.

Along with these interventions, government and community resources are leveraged and program funds are made available to pay delinquent housing and utility payments that, if not addressed, would trigger an eviction and potentially cause homelessness.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed an entirely new population facing imminent eviction. These were cost-burdened households that experienced sudden and acute financial pressures because of an unexpected loss in revenue. There was an urgent need to support these families who were not connected to the social services sector in any way by making the various resources accessible and creating sustainable plans for the near future.

The Community Bridge Pandemic Response Stream was developed to respond to this crisis, which featured an online application process, rapid responses, and remote case management.

2020-2021 Financial Overview

Your contributions are making real change in Edmonton! Thank you for investing in our work, and trusting us to use your contributions where they will have most impact in our community.

To maintain the highest organizational standards, our Financial Team is responsible for ensuring that our financial records detail where every dollar is spent. The team meets with auditors at least annually to review financial statements.

Bissell Centre finished fiscal year 2021—an unprecendented year of change—fully funded.

Statement of Operations - Revenue and Expenses Table

Year Over Year Revenue Chart

Thank You

Thank you to our frontline workers, case managers, support staff, managers, directors and executives for their tremendous work throughout a challenging period.

We are also deeply grateful to our devoted Board of Governors who volunteer their time to guide our work.

And, our sincerest thank you to our donors for their generous support, and for investing in the elimination of poverty in our community!

  • Government of Canada
  • Government of Alberta
  • City of Edmonton
  • Homeward Trust
  • Alberta EcoTrust Foundation
  • Calgary Foundation, Homelessness Assistance Fund
  • Canadian PPE Safety Supplies Inc.
  • Canadian Western Bank
  • Capital Power Corporation
  • Circle K Convenience Store Inc.
  • CN Stronger Communities Fund
  • Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association
  • Edmonton Community Foundation
  • Eldon & Anne Foote Fund
  • ENMAX Corporation
  • EPCOR Utilities Inc.
  • Estate of Jean Hatlen
  • Estate of Morley John Davies
  • KLM Ventures Ltd.
  • LUSH
  • McCarthy Family Fund
  • MedSup Canada
  • Melton Foundation
  • Miniso Trading Canada Inc.
  • Norcada Inc.
  • Petroleum Tank Management Association Of Alberta
  • Polar Industrial Services Ltd.
  • R and E Downs Fund
  • Royal Alexandra Hospital Employees Charitable Donations Fund
  • Saint John’s Legacy Foundation
  • Shirley & Gordon Gifford Family Fund
  • St. Paul’s Foundation Edmonton
  • TD Canada Trust Prairie Region
  • The Brick
  • The Grocery People
  • The Monsma Family Foundation
  • Trust Under Will of Robert Tegler
  • United Church of Canada Northern Spirit Region
  • United Way of the Alberta Capital Region
  • W.F. Steel & Crane
  • Wheaton Family Foundation

Your Impact

Your generosity this past year has had a tremendous impact on each and every life counted 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.

Your support has changed the lives of countless adults and families. Thank you for investing in the elimination of poverty in our Community!

2020-2021 Statistics