Bissell Centre’s long-term strategy is its vision, which is to eliminate poverty in our community. For many, such a vision might be brushed off as “pie in the sky” ambition or perhaps as an expression of hope by caring, yet unrealistic, people. Will poverty ever become eradicated from our community? Likely not, but what is the alternative vision then?
Shall we just talk about decreasing the incidence of poverty, set goals to lower the number of people living in poverty by 10%, 20% or some other “doable” but arbitrary number? Would we celebrate success knowing such goals, in effect, suggest we are concerned with a minority of those who are poor? Would we really be satisfied if our efforts only helped one in ten?
Bissell Centre’s decision to adopt this vision in 2011 is about a call to action for our organization to lead and act in ways that engage governments, businesses, labor, funders, associations, other non-profits, and individuals from all walks of life to come together to create and sustain the range and depth of change required to help people avoid or rise up out of poverty.
Our vision is also a call to change our own organization, where required, to ensure everything we do is vision-focused, whether in the direct delivery of our various programs, the partnerships we undertake across sectors, our relationships with funders and donors, or how we behave in community.
Our vision is a calling to focus our attention not only on traditional human service programs but also on actions that promote social justice, advocate for basic human rights, and enlist others to join together to build a stronger, more connected community. A community that is economically and socially viable for all citizens; a community that takes responsibility for each hungry child, each homeless person, each victim of abuse and violence; a community that is not willing to accept poverty and homelessness as tolerable or defensible.
Bissell Centre is not alone in this vision. Our intent is aligned with the social justice emphasis of our United Church founders (not to mention the faith community in general), with governments’ plans and actions to eliminate homelessness, with the changing emphasis of funders like United Way, with the corporate social responsibility strategies of businesses, and with the hundreds of donors who look to us for leadership in making life better for the poor and disenfranchised. We see other non-profit organizations sharing in this vision, too, many of whom we already partner with, and even more that we need to reach out to and explore new and better ways of working together.
There will be no chance of achieving our vision and little chance of making significant progress if our community continues to work in disparate and fragmented ways. Our mission stresses “working with others.”
We will see more failures than successes if our strategies attempt to lay blame and ostracize others for the problems in our communities. The case to change a social policy, a program or service, or how an organization is structured or funded does not need to be discussed or enacted within a context of culpability for what’s not working, but rather should be addressed around an alignment of common intent and goodwill.
THE CALL TO ACTION
At Bissell Centre, we believe in the power of caring. We believe that individuals can make a difference in their own lives and in our community. To achieve our vision, it must become the vision of many and that is at the heart of the work ahead: to partner with others to build, nurture, and sustain a movement to end poverty and homelessness in our community.
The vision to eliminate poverty necessarily means Bissell Centre will have to undertake numerous roles in our community – leader, participant, advocate, partner, mentor, learner, innovator, and risk taker. It also means that such an ambitious vision demands an equally ambitious, super ordinate strategy, which is this: to be a leader in the development of a community-wide movement to eliminate poverty and homelessness.
Such a strategy is not only about achieving BIG CHANGE in our community, it also calls our own organization to undergo significant change in how we see and live our role in community. While we continue to provide a range and depth of services to those most vulnerable in our community, we must become a catalyst for community synergy and action to overcome poverty and homelessness.
Please take a bit of time to view our strategic intent over the next five years. If you have any questions, ask us. If you want to help, join us. There is a whole lot to do.
By Guest Blogger: Karen Lee
Meet Paul – a 52 year old man I met at Bissell Centre’s Drop-In. Once upon a time Paul was financially comfortable. He worked for nine years as a journeyman tinsmith making $34 an hour. He had a place to live and didn’t have to worry about the next meal. But all that changed when he got into an unfortunate accident at work in 2008, which left him with severely injured hands and an amputated finger. After six major reconstructive surgeries over the past three years Paul still doesn’t have full usage of his hands, and today he is one of the many homeless people living in the inner city.
Paul blames the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) for his current situation. Paul is currently receiving $648 a month from them for his accident, which he says will run out in July. Understandably, he is angry and frustrated. Paul has been working all of his life but now he isn’t able to afford a place to live. For about a year Paul has been living on the streets and using inner city organizations like Bissell Centre to just get by on a daily basis. At Bissell he relies on the Casual Labour Program to make some extra money.
Up until recently Paul was receiving $1,856 per month for the past three years until WCB told him he is ready to return to work. According to Paul, he is unable to return to work as a tinsmith because he lost the dexterity he once had in his hands. He estimates that he can only do a third of the work he once did. He was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) about a year and half ago.
Paul is uncertain about his future. He doesn’t know if he can recover from his PTSD. Finding work has been difficult for him, he even tried training for other types of work through Bissell’s Employment Program, but his PTSD makes it challenging for him to remember the skills and information taught to him.
As my meeting with him concludes, I wonder how Paul’s story will end. He told me he will continue to fight the WCB’s decision to cease his compensation. I hope it works out for him. Until then, he will continue his daily visits to Bissell to eat, do laundry, make phone calls, for emotional support and other necessities.
Find out more about Employment Services.
Here’s what you can do.
The students and teachers at Riverbend Junior High have stepped up yet again in their ongoing support of Bissell Centre – this time with A Taste of Riverbend.
This annual food and culture fair is the brainchild of Wes Wintonyk and his Grade 9 Leadership Class. Designed to celebrate the diversity of the local community, each student is responsible for two food stations representing nations spanning the entire globe – from India to Germany, Korea, and even the North Pole! This is yet to speak of live entertainment including Scottish bagpipes and Caribbean steel drums.
As part of Riverbend Junior High’s multi-year commitment to Bissell, all funds raised through the event on April 20 go to support our work in the community. Brisk ticket sales and generous food donations from local businesses mean that this vibrant, creative event will also provide us with financial resources that are always needed. The students make a genuine difference in the community.
On behalf of everyone at Bissell Centre, I would like to thank all of the parents, volunteers, business owners, teachers and students who made A Taste of Riverbend so successful.
Introducing Bissell Centre’s very first FASD Awareness Ringtone! Be one of the first to have this modern new ringtone! Just follow the instructions below using the appropriate links.
Instructions on downloading the new ringtone to your phone
iPhone Users – You Can Choose Ringtone
Step 1. Import the M4R song file into iTunes on your computer (save it somewhere and then drag & dop)
Step 2. Synchronize the ringtone file from the Ringtone folder on the left to your iPhone
Step 3. After completing the sync, tap the settings on the iPhone
Step4. Tap Sound – Tap Ringtone
Step 5. Select the ringtone from Custom. (* Song titles may not be recognized when only written in Roman alphabet)
Blackberry Users – You Can Choose_BISSELL CENTRE RINGTONE MP3 BLACKBERRY
1. Open the attachments on your Blackberry phone device
2. Save the MP3 attachment by “checking” the box that says “save as ringtone”
3. Set your phone to audible ringtone, and have someone call you to test it out!
Unveiling for the first time – You Can Choose – an FASD Music Video by Bissell Centre, EFAN and PlanIt Sound
Our new music video!
Our new educational video!
We all know collaboration is at the heart of making positive change in society. We know this because the range and depth of change needed to improve conditions for people and communities will only be accomplished through working together within and beyond each of our sectors. We know that social improvements are tied to economic improvements and vice versa. No one entity can go it alone. Life’s issues and challenges are too complex and vast to assume otherwise.
To go off topic for a moment, the call of collaboration and action raises questions about how we view outcomes and their measurement. The placement of responsibility and accountability outcomes is often, if not nearly always, misplaced when for example a funder holds an organization accountable for a result or set of outcomes that no one can effect alone. I would suggest that our thirst for outcomes and outcome measurement is itself a rally cry for the mutual accountability that sits at the heart of collaboration.
The following Principles of Collaboration are borrowed from the Michigan State University Museum who developed the first 12 principles below for its Carriers of Culture project.
1) Reciprocity: At the heart of successful collaborations there needs to be direct benefit to participating stakeholders. Ideally, these reciprocal rewards, while not often the same, will enrich each partner in expected or unexpected ways.
2) Representation: The most successful collaborations bring all relevant stakeholders to the table to launch and implement the collaboration. This requires thinking broadly to identify potential participantsâ€¦.This includes consideration of â€¦ gender, age, geographic distributionâ€¦traditionsâ€¦ and I would add culture, knowledge, experience, and connectivity to other networks and resources.
3) Reach: The best collaborations usually have an impact beyond the individual project–they build new collaborative opportunities.
4) Skill and Human Development: Whatever the product of the collaborative project, it should result in the empowerment of those involved, the transformation of their organizations, and building new individual and organizational capacity.
5) Establishing the Framework: There should be a clearly defined leadership structure, a shared understanding of the leadership structure, and a mechanism to regularly communicate.
6) Belief in Collaboration: Those involved must believe that more can be achieved by working together than working alone, and bring this perspective to the dialogue.
7) Institutional Relationships Rather Than Individual Relationships: Individual participants are often also institutional representatives; when this occurs there is a commitment to build institutional capacity by enriching the knowledge and skills of individuals within the organization.
8) Transparency: There is a real need for open and honest expression of aspirations, expectations, and a process to ensure ongoing review and evaluation. Real transparency takes time, energy and a desire to build a sense of trust and respect.
9) Continuity and Regularity: Regular communication is critical as is the establishment of and adherence to timelines.
10) Acknowledgement of Contributions: A willingness to acknowledge contributions and share credit is a goal.
11) Continual Consultation: New relationships demand investments of time, energy and good will.
There are other principles that have a fit in this list. They are:
12) Equitable Participation: Those at the collaborative table not only have an obligation to participate fully, they have a responsibility to ensure that opportunities for participation are extended to one another.
13) Trust: The foundation of collaboration must include trust in one another and a commitment to behaviors that deepen and widen the trust – behaviors like transparency, follow through, honesty, and proven ability to not only influence others but be influenced by our partners as well.
14) Dialog: Dialog is more than communication. It includes helping others get their ideas out before judging them in order to ensure the full expression of ideas. It calls for individuals to be facilitative of mutual exchange much more so than using communication as tool of persuasion.
Reprinted from Anticipate!
Joe* came to Edmonton from a town in rural Alberta. He was new to the city and cautious about connecting with support. He spent a couple of weeks just staying in the inner city utilizing the shelters. Homeless, just released from the Remand Centre, and not keen on going back to the town he came from his relationship with family was strained and resources back home were limited.
Joe was referred to Bissell Centre’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services (FASS) program and was immediately connected with Bissell’s housing program, Homeless to Homes. Still having some unfinished legal matters to deal with and in jeopardy of going back to the correctional system, Bissell’s FASS Advocate began timely and consistent support.
The two attended his court appearance; Joe could have pleaded guilty to his charges and asked for a trial however he wanted to face them and was totally prepared to deal with any consequences. He spoke very well on his own behalf and his FASS program support person also spoke to his own commitment. The advocate confirmed the supports offered at Bissell Centre and Joe’s willingness to participate. The judge took this into consideration and suggested that Joe continue with the program, his goals and to report back in a couple of months.
Joe acted on his opportunities and with the advice of his advocate successfully completed a work program at Bissell Centre. He also kept up his contact with his advocate and added to his repertoire of resources such as the Fee Reduction program through the City of Edmonton Recreation. He also started participating in the Friday afternoon floor hockey program. The judge that proceeded over his court case was very impressed with Joe’s efforts and his willingness to better himself. This resulted in no more court appearances. Since then Joes has been to see his sister and her family and is now in line to attend a fork lift certification program. He truly has helped himself by taking advantage of the support offered, recognizing his opportunities and putting the effort into his goals he had set up with his FASS advocate.
*Name has been changed to protect their identity.
| For more information on our FASS program |
To book your free FASD presentation contact:
FASD Community Educator
Office: 780.423.2285, ext 157
Bissell Centre and EFAN have teamed up to create a new educational video on FASD along with a music video and ring tone.
Join us at the new EPCOR tower lobby at 10423 101 Street on April 19th at the Volunteer Fair and FASD video launch event from 11am – 1:30pm.
By Guest Blogger: Karen Lee
Did you know Bissell Centre organizes drop-in watercolour classes for the community members in their Drop-In Centre every Tuesday from 2:30pm until 4pm?
It is a popular activity that attracts clients of all ages and talents. It is a creative outlet for clients to develop and explore their inner artist.
All of the watercolour supplies are provided by Bissell Centre. People just need to bring their imaginations and see what unfolds!