A New Chapter of Collaboration Amid COVID-19
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much – Helen Keller
Collaboration is not new to Bissell Centre and our fellow social service agencies. We have often sat at the same tables advocating for the individuals we serve; providing a unified voice for those who may not otherwise be heard. We work together to provide services that meet the needs of those experiencing poverty and homelessness, trying to ensure there is enough supply to meet the demand.
The COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously increased the need and reduced our ability to supply services to meet the growing demand of an estimated 180 people were becoming homeless each month. As the cold weather approached, the City of Edmonton took action to provide housing options for everyone.
We were proud to once again 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 where individuals experiencing homelessness can go this winter.
From October 30 the 24/7 Emergency Response Accommodation, operating from The Edmonton Convention Centre, will offer round-the-clock support and services for up to 300 people overnight and up to 400 people during the day. Individuals who come to the 24/7 Emergency Response Accommodation will have essential services like food, clothing and a warm place to sleep, but will also have access to health and wellness support, including harm reduction services.
As the doors opened this weekend, the mood was warm and welcoming as hundreds of participants were able to access the services they need.
“The solution to homelessness is housing and support services…”
All partners recognize that temporary housing is not the solution to homelessness. The solution to homelessness is housing and support services, and all participants at the 24/7 Emergency Response Accommodation were connected with a housing support worker who will help them find longer-term housing.
Bissell Centre was responsible for managing the day shelter and housing services at the 24/7 Emergency Response Accommodation, ensuring that there are provisions and staff for laundry, showers, meals, storage and security measures as well as coordinating the housing services.
The 24/7 Emergency Response Accommodation stands for everything Bissell stands for; a welcoming space where everyone is important, every story is worth hearing and every life is meaningful. Bringing this to life is a tall order, but one we are prepared to fill. To focus on these efforts, the drop-in services at the Community Space at Bissell Centre were temporarily suspended.
Just a short walk away, back at home base, other essential Bissell Centre programs continued to support participants experiencing poverty.
- Employment Services is sourcing and providing casual labour placements for those looking for work. They are also offering job skills training and other job-ready programs.
- Financial Empowerment workers will continue to provide individuals and families with financial literacy education, assistance with tax filing and accessing government benefits, and support to access basic banking.
- Housing support workers will be onsite at the convention centre AND continue to reach out into street communities, learning about participant needs and addressing them with housing solutions.
- The Family Support team continues to visit families in their homes, providing diapers and formula and clothes as well as support with food and transportation.
- Bissell’s Early Childhood Development Program Opened its new doors on Nov 2, ready to provide high-quality care for nearly twice as many children as the previous space.
We were excited to be a partner in the convention centre, as we continued to evolve our programming while keeping everyone safe.
Together we are stronger, together we are safer, together we are happier. Thank you for standing together with us towards a future without poverty.