Tipinawâw – 24/7 Emergency Accommodation Amid COVID-19

In the fall of 2021, cold winter weather was looming, and there was reduced shelter capacity in the local sector as a result of COVID-19 spacing requirements, This created an emergent need to provide shelter and safety from the outside elements for people experiencing homelessness. The Edmonton Convention Centre was opened as Tipinawâw, a 24/7 emergency accommodation space which was operated by several local partnering agencies. This video series shows the challenges and triumphs faced.

Episode One – Mobilizing for Winter

With cold winter weather looming, and reduced shelter capacity in the local sector as a result of COVID-19 spacing requirements, there was an emergent need to provide shelter and safety from the outside elements for people experiencing homelessness. The Edmonton Convention Centre was opened as a 24/7 emergency accommodation space and operated by local partnering agencies. While this response faced some significant challenges, there were also some great triumphs. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Episode Two – More Than Just a Name

Tipinawâw not only provided shelter and safety from the outside elements for people experiencing homelessness, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society brought Indigenous culture to those at the 24/7 emergency accommodation space, allowing some to experience their own culture for the first time. This connectedness to one’s culture is a powerful step in their healing journey. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Tipinawâw: Episode Three – Outbreak

Following public health guidelines like physical distancing is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t have a home to stay in. Tipinawâw provided a 24/7 space at the Edmonton Convention Centre for people experiencing homelessness to access day and night services as safely as possible. Boyle Street Community Services led Tipinawâw’s medical response to COVID-19, providing PPE, showers, wound care, and harm reduction services on-site. They developed a contact tracing system and helped clients access COVID-19 tests and isolation spaces. As COVID-19 cases rose across the province, measures at Tipinawâw helped slow the spread of COVID-19. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Episode Four – Breaking the Cycle

Tipinawâw provided people experiencing homelessness with a warm, safe place to go over the fall and winter months. The 24/7 emergency accommodation space at the Edmonton Convention Centre did so much more than that; it also brought housing services to where people were at in their journey out of homelessness. Ultimately the solution to homelessness, is housing. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Tipinawâw: Episode Five – Tomorrow

Through collaboration and caring, Tipinawâw provided vulnerable Edmontonians a warm, safe space to go this past winter, and directly connected them to housing options. In the final video of this series, we explore how the City and partner agencies came together quickly to help people experiencing homelessness during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. What were the lessons learned? What will it take to end homelessness in Edmonton? Ultimately, the solution to homelessness is housing, and we are all stronger as a community when we are not leaving anyone behind. We invite you into Tipinawâw one final time.

Videos made in partnership with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Bissell Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed, the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Convention Centre and Homeward Trust. Video production: PlanIT Sound

National Volunteer Week Feature: Meet Saroj Saher

Saroj Saher has volunteered with Bissell for an astounding 30 years and has seen Bissell grow substantially in that time. Over the course of phone conversation, Saroj told me about her earliest days at Bissell and the many roles she has filled as a volunteer.  

In the early 1990s, she said, Bissell Centre was very simple” with fewer services and programs than we have currently. Shortly after starting her volunteer tenure with Bissell, Saroj met with Bissell’s CEO, who raised the idea of hosting a dinner around the Christmas holidays. The CEO said that people typically donate much more food around Christmas which would build up and couldn’t be distributed quickly.  

So, Saroj quickly signed on to spearhead what would become a regular Bissell tradition, the New Year’s Day Dinner. It turned out that the dinner required more work and a much bigger kitchen than anticipated. Over the years Saroj has forged many contacts with enthusiastic organizations who want to contribute their time and skill to preparing the dinner, ranging from large restaurants to NAIT’s commercial kitchens. Planning an event as large as the New Year’s Day Dinner takes a lot of time for staff and volunteers alike, but by all accounts, Saroj is far from done giving her time and extensive expertise to the cause. 

The New Year’s Day Dinner has come a long way since it started, providing over 1200 meals in its most recent iteration. However, for Saroj, giving back goes beyond big events like the dinner. As she says, “If you do a kind gesture, it’s contagious. You can give 1 dollar, a quarter, someone will see you giving, and it continues.” However large or small the gesture, Saroj firmly believes that when one person gives, others are motivated to do the same. 

Volunteer work is a matter of both duty and passion for Saroj, “I believe that I am better off financially…why I can’t I help? I have more privileges, so why can’t I share?” Saroj’s passion for the work we do at Bissell is evident right away when you talk to her. I asked what the best part of volunteering with Bissell has been and immediately Saroj replied “oh, I love it, I just feel so happy...there is a lot of connection there. I felt connected to [participants].”  

That sense of connection goes both ways as Saroj shared stories of participants who will come running up to her at events to catch up and the many stories she has learned over the years. It’s evident from talking to Saroj that she cares deeply about people and has an incredible drive to serve.  

If there’s one thing Saroj wished people knew about Bissell it is simply that “Bissell Centre is there to help.” Her passion for Bissell Centre’s work comes from the variety of services and programs on offer and the way that staff and volunteers engage with participants, “a smile can make a lot of difference.” 

Finally, what would Saroj tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with Bissell? “I would say go ahead, go, go! Don’t be scared. Try once, at least once. That experience, you will never forget. As we end our call, Saroj reiterates her gratitude for the many people who have helped her at Bissell and tells me that whatever we need, she is there to help. After 30 years of volunteering with Bissell, Saroj seems more motivated than ever. I have no doubt that the next time we host New Year’s Day Dinner, Saroj will once again be in the thick of things, more than likely leading the way. 


Interview by Sam Goertz, Volunteer Services Team

Chance’s Story of Hope

My name is Chance. I’m 25 years old and live at Hope Terrace, a permanent supportive home that is run by Bissell Centre. I have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder—a type of brain injury with no cure—so I need help with things like coping with my emotions, keeping appointments, and cooking.

Before I moved into the Hope Terrace residence, life was frustrating and stressful. I used to live at my grandmother’s house, along with my mom and four other family members. When everyone was home, it was chaos, which made it even harder to manage my emotions—even happy emotions were too much at times.

A lot of times, I would blackout because my emotions got too intense. I do my best to keep my anxiety and bipolar symptoms under control, but it can feel impossible without proper support.

Mom and I knew I needed help, but we didn’t have money and we didn’t know where to start. So, a few years ago, I tagged along with my friend to Bissell Centre’s Easter meal. He was getting help from Bissell and seemed to like it enough. Maybe I could get help too?

It was at that very meal that I first heard about Bissell’s mental health resources and the Hope Terrace house.

When I was invited to move into Hope Terrace a few months later, Mom and I both agreed it would be a good decision. I finally felt some hope. Maybe life doesn’t have to be so hard all the time? Maybe I could have a better life?

The staff here help me with the things that overwhelm me most—like budgeting, cooking, and dealing with my emotions. They are awesome! They’re really good, kind people—they’re my family.

Without the support that I regularly get here, I don’t know where I’d be.

—Chance, Bissell Centre Participant

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.

It was unthinkable. In five months, my entire family was gone.


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.

Make a holiday gift this Christmas, so we can walk alongside more people like David in their darkest hour.

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.

Supporting people with FASD at Bissell Centre

September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) month. Since 1999, FASD activists have held World FASD Awareness Day events on 09/09 to represent the nine months of pregnancy, often highlighted with a bell-ringing ceremony at 9:09 am. FASD is a lifelong disorder that affects people from all walks of life. It occurs as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and can result in a range of disabilities. In Alberta alone, approximately 46,000 individuals are currently impacted by FASD. Adults living with FASD face challenges daily due to the invisible nature of the disability impacting executive functions in the brain. Individuals with FASD often experience challenges with motor skills, daily living skills, emotional regulation, physical health, learning, attention, communication, memory, and social skills. Supporting people with FASD, through community support and on-site services can help them live independent and sustainable lives. Here at Bissell Centre we use a Person-Centered Planning approach in a holistic manner to provide a variety of services to support men and women with FASD.

FASD is a spectrum disorder that affects each individual differently.


Bissell Centre understands that FASD is a spectrum disorder that affects each individual differently. We strive to offer a variety of supports that accommodate the uniqueness of each person. Our Parent Child Advocacy Program (PCAP) is for pregnant women or those up to 6 months postpartum who are at high risk of using substances. PCAP helps them have healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, and healthier post-partum outcomes. The PCAP model is focused on harm reduction and is not abstinence based, though that may be a goal. The Adult Advocacy program provides outreach services to individuals with FASD, meeting them where they are at, brokering connections to government and community resources, and encouraging familial connections. Both programs follow a three year progression – the first year is building a therapeutic relationship with the advocate, the second year is interdependence, and the third year is successfully transitioning in to the community at large. Hope Terrace is a Permanent Supportive Housing program (PSH) where trained and equipped Bissell Centre staff provide a respectful, collaborative, and non-judgmental approach when interacting with residents under a harm reduction philosophy. The goal of Hope Terrace is to provide stable housing for individuals that have experienced chronic episodes of being houseless. Through on-site supports such as 24/7 Personal Support Workers, a Mental Health and Addictions Coordinator, and an Occupational therapist we are able to provide a holistic approach in order to achieve stable, permanent housing for our individuals that experience being houseless due to the complex nature of FASD.

Bissell Centre also focuses on increasing FASD knowledge and understanding within the community of support workers and other stakeholders, such as the police and emergency services. We organize and facilitate monthly FASD Frontline meetings where workers can bring challenges, issues, and concerns to the table to brainstorm around best strategies and practices to support people with FASD. These meetings help prevent information silos and enable networking opportunities. As well as have presenters come in to speak about programs and topics that are relevant to the work that the frontline workers do, which may supplement their resource knowledge.

It is through these programs that we can empower individuals who are living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Bissell’s Community Space is open again!

We were excited to open the doors to our Community Space on August 17, 2020, once again providing an inviting, engaging and welcoming environment for the community. Operations look a little different during Covid-19, but participant needs always come first at Bissell Centre.  While we adapt our activities to meet health and safety requirements set out by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we remain committed to our community and meeting their needs in a friendly space.

How have operations changed in the Community Space?

Screening and Sanitizing: We will be conducting health screens at the door.  Individuals without COVID-19 symptoms will wash/sanitize their hands upon entry.

Food Safety: We will continue to provide healthy food and beverages, which will be served to participants in individual packaging, and there will not be any sharing of food.

Reduced Capacity: To maintain physical distancing requirements, the Community Space will have a maximum capacity of 30 people at any one time.  We will be monitoring numbers at the door so that as many people as possible can gain access to services throughout the morning.

Tracking: We will also be tracking attendees that come to the Community Space.  Should a case of COVID-19 be present in the future, this information can be used for potential contact tracing.

Reduced Hours: This applies only to “drop-in” services, allowing time to maintain cleaning and sanitizing procedures in our building.  This also provides staff more one-to-one time with participants to help them move out of poverty.

Face Coverings: Are mandatory to access the space although exceptions are allowed as per the City of Edmonton Bylaw 19408

How these changes may affect the community?

Eliminating poverty remains our vision and our top priority.  The “drop-in” nature of the Community Space provides immediate essential needs and also serves as a platform for Bissell staff to engage with participants to help them achieve long-term success. Reducing capacity in the community space means we can have more intentional conversations with participants and build even stronger relationships, to help people access the supports and resources they need to move out of poverty.

Bissell Centre’s programs are designed to provide a holistic approach to supporting individuals and families to get out of poverty. We have increased the integration of services so that participants can more easily access employment, housing, and financial supports.

The reduced hours for drop-in services create more time for individual appointments providing intentional support for moving people out of poverty.  Non “drop-in” hours will be used for appointments and program-based supports.

Working together to keep our Community Space open

Life under the threat of COVID-19 is challenging for everyone. Bissell Centre remains fully committed to meeting the needs of participants while working with government and local partners to find alternate solutions so we can continue to ensure safety for everyone in our community now and in the future.

Homeless Amid COVID – Edmonton’s Collaborative Response

Homeless Amid Covid (#HomelessAmidCOVID) is a video series highlighting Edmonton’s collaborative response to protect people experiencing homelessness during COVID-19.

Video made in partnership with Bissell Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, Boyle McCauley Health Centre, and Homeward Trust. Video production: PlanIT Sound.

Episode 1: The Day Services

Take a tour through the Day Drop-in that was located at the Edmonton Expo Centre to learn about the critical services provided and how collaboration has kept people safe and supported through the pandemic.

Episode 2 – The Isolation Shelter

In the second episode of this series, we’ll take a walk through the Isolation Shelter, a temporary facility that was set up to provide screening, testing, health services and self isolation space for Edmonton’s most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Episode 3: A Way Home

In the third episode of this series, we meet Rob, a Boyle Street client who details his story from homelessness to housing through the bridge housing offered at the Coliseum Inn. This was made possible by the coordinated service delivery available to people experiencing homelessness through Edmonton’s collaborative response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Episode 4: Behind the Data

In the fourth episode of this series, we learn about the key role Edmonton’s innovative and data-driven systems play in supporting and moving people out of homelessness, and how these systems have been able to adapt during the pandemic.

Episode 5: A Safe Place

In the fifth and final episode of Homeless Amid COVID, we learn how the quick, sector-wide response of more than 20 organizations and all levels of government, led to impactful front-line efforts that provided a much-needed safe space for those experiencing homelessness in Edmonton during the pandemic.

While the Expo Centre was a short-term solution to provide these supports and services, the work of keeping this vulnerable population safe continues. Ultimately, the solution to homelessness is housing.

Funding support from the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program, the Government of Alberta – Ministry of Community and Social Services and the City of Edmonton.

How you can offer hope during COVID-19

When it was clear physical distancing was necessary for everyone’s safety, we immediately recognized that people who didn’t have a home to go to were at great risk. People without a home, a shower, laundry facilities, and all manner of basic amenities are already susceptible to health issues. The risks are then compounded by the fact that people with no home often sleep in the cold.

Our Community Space remained open so that people with nowhere to go could still meet some basic needs. But physical distancing was near impossible, and we couldn’t offer much-needed medical assistance for those with COVID-19 symptoms.

The City of Edmonton, Alberta Health Services, Homeward Trust and various social agencies, including Bissell Centre, quickly came together to turn the Edmonton EXPO Centre into an Isolation Centre and Day Shelter, where health supports are available, people without a home can access food, clothing, a shower, etc., as well as practice distancing. In about 7 days we uprooted our staff, operational equipment, and community members.

“I am so appreciative of how our team is pulling together at all levels to plan, coordinate and implement changes in such a short window. It has been quite a feat to behold, truly a herculean effort.

We remain steadfast in our resolve to ensure people experiencing homelessness and poverty are supported safely and with dignity in these uncertain times.” – Gary St. Amand, CEO

Government funding covers many of the costs for the Expo operations, but Bissell is still responsible for filling ongoing and emerging needs for active programs beyond the Expo Day Shelter.

We ran out of clothes almost immediately. Within a couple of days, we were seeing more than 500 people come to the EXPO. Since we couldn’t accept used clothes in the short-term due to distancing recommendations, we turned to the public for help.

Boyle Street Community Services and Bissell appealed to you, the community at large, for help to raise money to buy jeans, shirts, underwear, gloves, underwear, and more. In less than 1 week, you contributed $30,000. Even though we’ve often witnessed just how compassionate Edmontonians are—this blew us away! It’s a bit of a challenge for our staff to find clothing sources, but we’ve been able to fill gaps.

Other programs continue to run. The Outreach Housing Teams, in addition to providing housing opportunities, are providing bagged lunches to people who are still on the streets, providing information about distancing and the resources available, and encouraging them to go to the EXPO. Other Teams are bringing meals, cleaning supplies, and phones to people who are newly housed and our tenants at Hope Terrace. Supports are limited, but we are doing what we can to be reliable and ensure their well-being.

Back at Bissell our Childcare Staff are also working hard. Our Early Learning and Child Care Centre was selected to provide childcare services for essential service workers. The team eagerly shifted gears in order to support front-line workers. They changed some structures and procedures to meet pandemic-related health requirements, but the heart of the program remains. In fact, our dedicated, caring staff are highly experienced working with children and families experiencing stress. A big stress is simply finding affordable, high-quality childcare. It is not easy to come by for people experiencing poverty. We’re honoured to offer this service to essential workers, so they can rest easy that their loved ones are being cared for while they meet other extraordinary stresses.

Our Family Support Workers are doing their best to stay in touch with our own families. They are doing what they can to see that families have access to food and supplying diapers and formula where needed.

We are doing everything possible to work for those who turn to us, but, as the saying goes…

These are uncertain times.

We’ve all heard this phrase over the past few weeks, but for people experiencing poverty and homelessness, uncertainty is all too normal. Bissell has been one of the, too few, cornerstones they’ve been able to depend on.

No matter what goes on in the world or one’s own life, Bissell Centre has always been a trusted and safe space for people in need. It is a place of compassion, support and hope.

“I’m free from drugs and homelessness because of these individuals. I cannot ever repay the kindness, the support, the pain and the gain…I just want you all to know… I am so very thankful and pray your safe and fulfilled while you lead us to safety. Thank you so much” – Jien, former participant

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bissell remains wholly committed to serving the people that need and depend on us the most. But we can’t do it without you.

For over 100 years, support from the community has made it possible for Bissell to serve this city’s most vulnerable  citizens. Bissell has helped people through World Wars, the Great Depression, recessions and other global medical challenges, such as Spanish Flu, HIV, SARS, and H1N1. We are dedicated to ensuring our participants are cared for throughout COVID-19 too.

“I can’t keep up with all these changes. It’s too much. But, I’m in the right place. I feel taken care by Bissell, and I know they can get me what I need.” – Chris, Community Space participant

We have had to make changes to the way we run our programs, like moving our Community Space to the Expo Centre, but we are still very much active and operational.

Today your support is needed more than ever. Your gifts make the following possible:

  • Meals and bag lunches for those on the street
  • Supporting people to get housing or stay housed so they can safely self-isolate
  • Hampers with diapers and formula for Bissell families
  • Protective items like masks and gloves for staff and participants
  • Stability to ensure we come out of this crisis strong and can continue with projects such as the construction of the new childcare facility

In April, the National Month of HOPE, please provide hope during Covid-19 for individuals who are really struggling to see the light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

We will get through this if we continue to work together.

Protecting the Safety of our Community Amid COVID-19

As the pandemic began, Bissell Centre provided regular updates through this blog post about how their operations had changed and how they were working hard to protect the community and keep the focus on participant safety during the rise of Covid-19

April 11 Update

We have had to make changes to the way we run our programs, like moving our Community Space to the Expo Centre, but we are still very much active and operational.

Today your support is needed more than ever. Your gifts make the following possible:

  • Meals and bag lunches for those on the street
  • Supporting people to get housing or stay housed so they can safely self-isolate
  • Hampers with diapers and formula for Bissell families
  • Protective items like masks and gloves for staff and participants
  • Stability to ensure we come out of this crisis strong and can continue with projects such as the construction of the new childcare facility

Read more about the latest happenings at Bissell Centre and how you can offer hope during COVID-19

March 25 Update

EXPO Centre / Service Changes

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to physically separate people all over the world, we also see individuals, communities and organizations banding together in their efforts to look after one another.

The new Isolation Shelter for Covid-19 relief and Drop-In Day Services at the Edmonton Expo Centre is a perfect example of how many entities are working together to respond to the current public health need.

Bissell Centre and our partners at Boyle Street Community Services have been identified as co-leads by Homeward Trust Edmonton, the organization tasked with coordinating the non-medical services side of the Expo Centre supports.

Boyle McCauley Health Centre has been identified as co-leads with Alberta Health Services to provide the medical services at the site. The City of Edmonton together with the Expo Centre team are providing logistical supports. Other partners include The Mustard Seed, George Spady Society, The Salvation Army & more.

 All of these groups are coming together to support and serve those individuals in greatest need in our community; individuals who don’t have a home to isolate in, and are at risk of experiencing greater complications from Covid-19 due to an increase in compromised immune systems.

The 2 main functions of the EXPO Centre

While the Expo Centre will offer a variety of services for struggling community members who are experiencing homelessness, there are two main areas to the centre: medical and nonmedical. The medical side is a 24/7 shelter for folks with symptoms who need to be tested and have a supported space where they can isolate and be treated as needed.

The non-medical side is a large space where folks can access vital services throughout the day such as showers, meals, coffee, clothing, hygiene products etc. The site will soon also include, housing, cultural, mental health, and a number of other relevant supports, The day services run from 8 am to 8 pm.

Programming Changes at Bissell Centre

We are in an environment of constant, rapid change and the Bissell Centre team has shown incredible resilience in their ability to shift into crisis care. Here are a few updates to programming at Bissell Centre:

  • Our Community Space operations have been moved to the Expo Centre
  • Our vital housing programs remain operational
  • Our Thrift Shop is closed for the time being BUT we are working on a plan for in-kind donations to support the ongoing needs of folks accessing our services at the Expo Centre

Together with our partner agencies, we will be constantly reviewing and assessing the impact of the changes we make to ensure we are best supporting our participants in this rapidly changing situation.

Thank you for checking in with us during this time. As the horizon changes, Bissell Centre will always work towards protecting the most vulnerable in our mission of eliminating poverty in our community.

How you can help

If it is in your means to give, we need your support more than ever. Please consider making a monetary donation and stay tuned for additional ways to support our work at this time.

March 20 Update

Please note: We are no longer accepting in-kind donations downtown.

For the safety of our staff and community, we are no longer accepting in-kind donations such as food, clothing, personal care items etc. at our main facilities downtown (10527-96st & 10530-96st).

The best way to support Bissell Centre at this time is by making a financial donation.

Donate Now

Please check back here for updates and new information, as things are changing rapidly.

March 16 Update

As recommendations rapidly change, Bissell Centre is adhering to the guidelines set out by the GoC, GoA and the City of Edmonton. There have been closures, recommended and issued, that greatly affect people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Bissell Centre is coordinating with other social service agency partners, orders of Government and coordinating entities and we are working closely, sharing resources and training as well as staying in close communication with each other during this time. No one has all the answers but following the guidelines and working together has become apparent when making decisions that could affect many people.

For now, we can tell you that all volunteer activities and group programming have been suspended, along with the closing of our licensed daycare centre. We will continue to provide access to critical supports for people in need in a safe and supportive manner.

We want to assure our supporters, staff and community members that we are doing everything in our power, organizationally, to be on top of the changes. Our number one priority is keeping people accessing our services and employees, safe and supported.

Many people are wondering how they can help and we are incredibly grateful for the offers of support. We are encouraging financial donations at this time as we continue to assess emergency resources needed for community members and staff.

Gary St. Amand
Chief Executive Officer, Bissell Centre

March 12 Response

The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. Bissell Centre is deeply concerned that the effects of this virus add another risk to those experiencing poverty and homelessness. We know that those individuals are among those most vulnerable to health concerns like COVID-19, as some may have compromised immune systems and pre-existing health conditions, along with precarious living situations and urgent basic needs like shelter and meals.

We are proactively planning to assist people as effectively as possible as the situation progresses. We remain committed to supporting those who are experiencing poverty and homelessness, many of whom rely daily on Bissell Centre for meals, basic needs and other important services.

While currently, we are not aware of any confirmed cases amongst our staff, volunteers, or people who access our services, we are preparing for a variety of possible scenarios.

How are we helping protect the safety of our community? At this time, Bissell Centre is implementing the following:

  • Sharing information with staff, volunteers and people accessing our services on how to prevent and recognize COVID-19 and connect them with appropriate health supports
  • Taking extra sanitation measures to clean all surfaces thoroughly and more frequently within Bissell Centre
  • Regularly updating and implementing measures under our Business Continuity Plan
  • Striking a Pandemic Response Team to coordinate our actions under our Business Continuity Plan
  • Coordinating with partner agencies, government and health authorities to establish a proactive and collective COVID-19 strategy

Bissell Centre has been and will continue to carefully monitor and follow the guidance set out by the Canadian Health Authorities to facilitate the prevention, early detection and containment of the virus.

In the coming weeks, we recognize that we may need to equip our staff and community members with extra supplies and resources. Your continued support and encouragement are greatly appreciated as we navigate this uncertain time focused on Covid-19 safety for the community and our staff.

Gary St. Amand
Chief Executive Officer, Bissell Centre

Reg Canadian Charity · 118810829RR0001