This is the story shared with Bissell Centre by one of our supporters, Patti Jones. Thank you for passing it along to us and allowing it to be shared! We hope it encourages you, your family, your community and/or your place of work to talk about how we view our most vulnerable and what we might be able to do to help.
My mom always said, “help should begin at home.”
My dad was divorced from my mom when I was six months old. He was an alcoholic most of his life and struggled with his own demons. He lived in the inner city of most of his life – the last few in a rooming house not far from the downtown station. He didn’t give us a lot of opportunity to see him often, but it’s organizations like yours [Bissell Centre] that gave him some hope to get through another day. It also gives families, who are in situations similar to our families, the peace of mind that there are places their loved ones can go to for help.
You truly build a community with those in need, either impoverished or homeless, and it still makes me smile.
I recall one visit my sister and I made to our dad not long before he passed away. He took us on a walk through the neighbourhood late at night, which was a little scary for me and my sister. We went to the liquor store to buy him alcohol, because that was easier to bear than the alternative (that he might pick through garbage to find bottles to exchange for cash to pay for his booze). It was one way we could show him love – understanding that he wasn’t going to change or stop drinking. When we walked with him, many of the street people knew him, (as Freddy McDougall), and we had the opportunity to say hello to his friends. It didn’t take us any longer than that walk to learn they truly look after each other.
A few months after that night, my father had not been seen for a few days around the rooming house and it was one of those friends who called the police to report it. The police broke down his door to get in his room and that is when he was found. He had passed away from what they believe was heart failure. Had it not been for such a tight community in that rooming house and neighbourhood, he could have been left unfound much longer.
While the story itself may sound sad, I find peace in it knowing he had such great people to be around and that he had his own circle of friends and supporters there for him. After his passing we visited with a few of his friends from the rooming house and they shared some stories with us about what they would remember about him. My sister and I still talk about it.
I had forgotten, until I started talking to my family about this again recently, that my aunt and uncle used to own a jacket embroidery company (they would embroider corporate logos, hockey team jackets, etc). They used to bring up all the samples when they were done with them so that my dad could take them to places like Bissell Centre to be given out.
Our family hopes that more people will not look down at those who are struggling with many complex issues but do what they can to help take care of them in whatever way they can.
There is (or used to be) an aboriginal gentleman on the corner of Whyte Ave and about 105 street every weekend – rain, snow, or sunshine. He always greeted me with a hello and a smile, and he used to remember my niece. He would be selling the newspapers put out by the aboriginal community. For years my husband always makes sure I have a $20 in my pocket to give to this gentleman. For us, it isn’t about the newspaper; it is helping support an individual who is working to make his life better. He is stronger than many of us, he stands out there in the cold for hours and tolerates people who judge him for good or bad, so god bless him for still keeping a smile on his face and not judging people back.
To help support the individuals and families who need Bissell Centre services please visit www.bissellcentregivingguide.org to find ways you can help.