October 2017 | Bissell Centre

Millie Finds Peace in her New Home

Millie has been battling addiction, violence, and poverty all her life. The child of low-income parents who grappled with alcohol addiction, Millie grew up in a turbulent, sometimes violent household. The man that she later married also had an alcohol addiction and violent tendencies.

After seven years of unhappy marriage, Millie found herself the single mother of two young children. It had become unsafe to stay under the same roof as her ex-husband, so Millie and her kids slept in her car for several nights until they could get in to a shelter.

“My son was three, my daughter was five. That was the first time I became homeless.”

 

Most single parents would say that raising children on your own is the challenge of a lifetime, but Millie felt uniquely unprepared for the job. “I didn’t know how to raise children,” she said. “I didn’t have that stepping stone in my family. I had to learn how to do that.”

Her greatest fear was that her children would be unable to break out of the cycle of poverty and addiction that she had been born into. “I did a lot of research on the internet, resource books and that,” said Millie. “My kids had balanced diets. I made my baby food right from scratch. Now, they both have structured eating habits.”

Millie worked in the oil & gas industry for over eight years and believed that her stable employment during that time helped to provide a foundation of positive growth for her children. Her son would go on to become a personal trainer; her daughter would later get her Masters in Education and become a teacher for children with special needs. Millie is unable to conceal the pride in her voice when talking about how well her children have done for themselves.

However, Millie’s journey has been far from easy. After years of refraining from drinking for fear of following in the footsteps of her parents, Millie succumbed to alcohol, triggering a lifelong addiction. Alcohol became the only way Millie could cope with her painful past. Although there were times in her life when it seemed to lift, Millie’s addiction always returned.

“I think situations and life experiences put you back into addiction thinking that it will comfort you, but it doesn’t.”

 

Two years ago, Millie’s rent was raised unexpectedly. She knew she needed help if she wanted to stay off the streets, so she applied for assistance from Bissell Centre’s Community Bridge Program. Community Bridge helps individuals in danger of eviction pay for rent and utilities and offers additional support in the form of education and workshops.

Community Bridge was able to help Millie afford her rent while she focused on her health and overcoming her addiction. Without the program, Millie believes she would have been evicted and left homeless once again.

The years since Community Bridge’s intervention in her life have been difficult, but today Millie is finally living in a stable home: a two-bedroom condo that she shares with her daughter.

“It’s so peaceful. I wake up every day not having to worry about where I’ll find a meal. I’m at peace with me and my world.”

 

Currently, Millie is a Peer Outreach Worker and a Board Member for Aawear through Streetworks that provides street-level support for people dealing with addictions. She has been volunteering at Bissell Centre, the Co-op, and the Edmonton Native Healing Centre. She has been sober for almost a year.


Bissell Centre’s Community Bridge Program is funded by a collaboration of numerous supporters, including ENMAX who helps to cover the costs of utility bills to ensure individuals and families struggling with poverty remain housed.

Please visit our Housing Services webpage to learn more about our Community Bridge Program.

 

CEO Announcement: Renovations Underway!

I am excited to announce that renovations to our downtown facility are underway with a grand re-opening scheduled for February 2018.

Our newly, upgraded space will enable more people to connect with the essential resources they need to break free from the cycle of poverty and find hope for the future.

Our team is ecstatic to be able to take this important step further towards our vision of eliminating poverty in our community.

In 2014, we conducted a major review of our Drop-in Centre with the intention of improving and expanding our services to those who come to us for assistance. The report revealed that we needed to re-imagine our space to better connect participants with the support services they need and to adopt a new service delivery model that further aligns to our vision and mission.

This means that people can, not only access the basic items they need like clothing and showers, but also be connected to other services that allow them to move out of poverty and achieve prosperity in their lives.

I can’t wait for the larger space. It will be easier for me to use the showers, bathrooms, and laundry. It’s going to be good! – Sam, Bissell Centre Participant.

 

The new centre will significantly improve people’s ability to access housing supports, employment opportunities, skills training, and vital programs and services.

I’m also happy to inform you that we are partnering with The Mustard Seed as they have graciously freed up space so that our team can continue to offer drop in services in their facility during the renovations.

For approximately 14 weeks we will continue to provide daily meals, hygiene and clothing items, and recreation programming there while we renovate the interior of our building.  Our Employment Services and Casual Labour will remain operating out of Bissell Centre’s facilities.

To learn more, please check out our Renovations Plan.

We look forward to updating you as the project develops.

Sincerely,

Gary St. Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre