From the Street to School – Mike’s Story

When Mike first came to Bissell Centre, he’d been living on the street for two years. You might have even seen him on the streets of Edmonton. Perhaps you were the woman who looked Mike in the eyes and said, “You need to get yourself help. There are resources to help you.”

Mike grew up in Edmonton in a family of eight. It wasn’t easy growing up in such a big family. They lived in a cramped three-bedroom house, made smaller because his mother was a hoarder, and his parents fought often.

Mike was similar to his father. He was trusting. He always saw the best in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt. If you asked, he’d give you the shirt from his back.

Once he turned 18, Mike worked and lived on his own, at times allowing his siblings, even his mother, to live with him when they struggled to get by.

Eventually, he made the journey from Edmonton to Calgary. There, he worked for years in the construction industry. Unfortunately, his business partner wasn’t trustworthy—he was underpaying and stealing work from Mike.

During this chaotic time, Mike lost his father, and it was like all the air was sucked from his lungs. The loss was devastating. With his life in shambles, he decided to return home.

Sadly, he didn’t receive the help he’d hoped to find back home. That’s when Mike became homeless for the first time. Each day was a constant struggle. No one believed in him and he certainly didn’t believe in himself.

 “Give people a reason to believe in themselves again and see what they do with their lives.”

 

One day, a kind woman approached him on the street, and encouraged him to seek help. That was a life-changing moment for Mike. He began thinking that things could be different.

Mike found his way to Bissell Centre, where he finally got the help he needed. Scona High School had recently raised $115,000 for Bissell Centre, enabling them to form an Outreach Housing Team. Mike became their first ever participant!

With support from the new team, Mike found an affordable apartment, and got access to mental health services. He also found a rewarding sales job. He was so skilled that he soon won top sales awards and he continues to work there today.

Mike is also now working toward a business degree and is set to graduate at the end of this semester! He dreams of working with wood—he loves building things with his hands.

“Without Bissell Centre, I’d most likely be dead. Most people are on the streets because they don’t believe in themselves and no one believes in them,” Mike says. “Give people a reason to believe in themselves again and see what they do with their lives.”

Donors like you have made it possible for Mike to access Bissell Centre’s Outreach Housing Team, along with other resources. Thanks to your support, Mike has moved from poverty to prosperity.

Thank you for helping Mike and others like him to find affordable housing, and step into a brighter future!

Mike story is a feature in our May Newsletter. Read the full newsletter online now. 

Walking the Walk – One Man’s Mission to Help Vulnerable Edmontonians

Josh Hudon, father and business owner, is humble about his achievements, but his collection of 1000 bags for Bissell Centre is anything but a humble feat. He working tirelessly over 9 months to collect the bags, mobilizing a large network to get the job done. The drive and passion to collect the 1000 bags stemmed from a time where he was experiencing financial hardships and could have lost his house and his business.

“It got me thinking about the homeless situation in Edmonton I wanted to do something to help,” explains Josh. “You don’t normally think about homelessness until it really affects you, and that’s what happened to me.”

“You don’t normally think about homelessness until it really affects you.”

 

Another thing that inspired his momentous clothing drive was his participation in the Coldest Night of the Year national fundraising walk last winter. Experiencing firsthand the cold of a winter walk in the dark gave him a deeper empathy for individuals experiencing homelessness in Edmonton and he wanted to do something more to help.

Josh worked closely with his sister to collect and transport the bags a two dozen at a time and met several supporters throughout the campaign who helped him reach his goal. After landing some media opportunities in the fall, bags really began to pour in. On November 19th, 2018, Josh dropped off his 1000th bag.

And he’s not stopping there.

Shortly after collecting “#1000bagsforBissell,” Josh and his friends entered as a team for the Coldest Night of the Year again, with sights set high. Josh’s team hopes to raise $60,000 for Bissell Centre as they participate in the walk. They are already well on their way to achieving this ambitious goal. At the time of writing, Josh’s team is the top fundraising team in Canada for the Coldest Night of the Year, having already raised $14,178.

When asked if he had any advice for teams looking to step up their fundraising efforts, Josh suggested being creative. He has hosted two silent auctions, sold raffle tickets for a large basket giveaway, and reached out to his network for corporate sponsorships. He also recommends dreaming big.

“No one has ever accomplished anything great by setting small, easily achievable goals—you need to reach higher than you might think possible,” explains Josh. He has high expectations of himself, and his drive and ambition are what help him accomplish his mountainous goals.

Support or join Josh’s team, here!

Or, start your own team

 

New Mom Looking for Holiday Help, Surprised to Help Others

Christmas of 2017 was a tough time for my family. Having welcomed our second daughter in September, we were at the pinnacle of sleep deprivation as our youngest went through her three-month sleep regression. As a breastfeeding mom, I would wake every 2-3 hours to feed her, and this went on for weeks. We were so tried that we were barely getting through the every-day chores, let alone getting ready for Christmas.

With Christmas looming and a two-year-old at home, I bought all my gifts online, but had absolutely no time to wrap them. I contemplated buying paper bags to shove the presents in and calling it a day. Then I heard about the partnership between Bissell Centre and Southgate Centre for their gift-wrapping service. Not only would I not have to wrap my own gifts, but I’d also get to spend some time having a coffee while the baby napped in her car seat. It was a no-brainer for me. I went the next day and thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet the wonderful volunteers from Bissell, who cheerfully took my gifts to wrap, labeled them and returned them to me in under an hour. I got to walk the mall, enjoying a hot coffee for the first time in weeks.

I was looking for help during the holidays, and I found out that I was helping others.

 

Any mom of young children can attest to just how hard it is to get a moment to themselves. Bringing my gifts for wrapping at Southgate gave me some time to myself at such a critical time in my postpartum journey. Most importantly, I was surprised and delighted to learn about the impact that Bissell Centre has on the community, including supporting struggling families and children through their Childcare program, parenting classes, clothing donations and more. In fact, Bissell Centre supports over 600 families across Edmonton each year. I was looking for help during the holidays, and I found out that I was helping others. What a gift!

It was such a pleasant experience that I will be bringing my gifts every year. Life is still busy with a toddler and preschooler running around and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to bringing my gifts to be wrapped by “Bissell Elves” at Southgate Mall. It has become a welcomed holiday tradition for us.

*Submitted and written by local mom and business owner, Jacquie DuVal.


Between November 23th and December 24th, for a minimum donation of $3, have your Christmas gifts wrapped at Southgate Centre by Bissell Elves. All proceeds go to support Bissell Centre’s Childcare meal program.

7 Ways to Support Bissell Centre this Holiday Season

Together, we can make a big difference for families and individuals living in poverty this Holiday Season.

Here are 7 ways you can help!

1. Shop Our Holiday Gift Guide

Choose a meaningful gift from our Holiday Gift Guide to benefit individuals and families in need. Shop now!


3. Volunteer with Us—Become a Bissell Elf!

As a “Bissell Elf” you will take part sorting donations, wrapping gifts, serving meals, and spreading good cheer alongside enthusiastic Bissell Elf Captains, who will help lead the way!


2. Have Your Gifts Wrapped in Support of Bissell Centre

Between November 23th and December 24th, for a minimum donation of $3, have your Christmas gifts wrapped at Southgate Centre by Bissell Elves. All proceeds go to support Bissell Centre’s meal program for children.


4. Fundraise on Our Behalf!

This holiday season, when you host a staff event, church gathering, or dinner party, you can also give to people in need. Find everything you need to host a fundraiser for Bissell!


5. Donate Warm Winter Gear

During the cold season, items such as jackets, gloves, mitts, and boots are critical to the health and safety of people experiencing homelessness. You can help by donating new or used winter gear as an individual, or, consider starting a clothing drive initiative! Check out our list of needed items.


6. Stay Tuned this Giving Tuesday!

Stay tuned this #GivingTuesday, November 27, 2018! We have something exciting to share with you.


7. Share and Advocate!

Advocacy in all its forms helps ensure that vulnerable people get the support they need to move from poverty to prosperity. So tell your family, friends, and colleagues about these easy ways to support Bissell Centre this season!

 

ENMAX Renews Support of Eviction Prevention Program

We are thrilled to announce that ENMAX has renewed their partnership with our Community Bridge Program! Community Bridge is a rapid response intervention to stop an imminent eviction and provide interventions and services to ensure that the causes of the eviction are effectively addressed to ward off the re-occurrence.

The vision of the program includes strong partnerships across all sectors that leverage existing services while directing funds to the preventative efforts that stop homelessness before it occurs, and sets the stage for actions people and systems can undertake to improve lives and people’s futures. The vision is of a service that reduces the economic costs of poverty that all of us fund in one way or another.

Millie’s story helps explain the value of the program.

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

Today, Millie spends her spare time volunteering with various organizations, extending a helping hand to others who are struggling in similar ways she was.

“Now I have a safe home to go to every night, and for that I’m so grateful. I wake up every day not having to worry about where I’ll find a meal.” – Millie

Thank you ENMAX for your significant contribution and support of our Community Bridge Program. We are so grateful for your support and for the positive impact you’ve made and will continue to make in our program participant’s lives!

7 Memorable Highlights of 2017

Thanks to our incredible supporters, we were able to implement positive changes and saw huge successes that truly impacted the people we served this year! Here are some of our favourite moments of 2017.

1) Struggling Families Treated to More Summer Camp Experiences

Moonlight Bay Centre, our camp site at Lake Wabamun, has been a place of solace, rest, and rejuvenation for struggling families. Through traditional summer camp activities, kids and adults alike made meaningful connections while enjoying a respite from the stress of city life. This year, we offered six 4-day camps, enabling us to host 143 people, including 51 children.

Family Camps at Moonlight Bay Centre


2) Financial Empowerment Program Launched

In partnership with E4C and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, Bissell launched its Financial Empowerment Services. This national program strives to improve the financial well-being of people with low incomes through education, coaching, and supports. We are seeing more people filing their taxes than ever before!

Financial Empowerment Program


3) Bissell’s Expanded Outreach Housing Team Houses More People than Ever

Our Outreach Housing team alone helped 55 people, including 19 children, find permanent homes in October. This was a record number of people supported in a single month! To date, with the assistance of our housing services teams, approximately 345 people have been housed this year, and 318 adults, parents, and children avoided eviction with support from our Community Bridge team.

Housing Services Helps More People than Ever


4) Neighbours Come Together to Commemorate National Indigenous Peoples Day

National Indigenous Peoples Day is held across Canada every year to celebrate and recognize the unique cultural heritage of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples. Many of our friends and neighbours gathered at Bissell to enjoy singing, dancing, drumming from various indigenous backgrounds, along with stew and bannock meals, traditional arts activities, and more!

National Indigenous Peoples Day


 5) Renovations Commence to Improve Access to Supports

Bissell Centre has operated drop-in services for over a hundred years as a means of engaging with individuals who struggle with homelessness and poverty. We received funding to renovate our communal space in order to improve our clients’ ability to access the services they need to meet basic needs, obtain critical supports, develop skills, and build relationships. We’re excited to implement our service model and take another step toward eliminating poverty in our community.

Drop-In Renovations Commence


6) Bissell Introduces FASD Medic Alert Bracelets

In October, our Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services team launched MedicAlert’s pilot FASD bracelet program at Bissell. The program aims to achieve more equitable treatment for persons living with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder by raising awareness among emergency first responders on how to approach these individuals as identified through their MedicAlert ID.

FASS Medic Alert Bracelets


7) Bissell Donors and Volunteers Bring Joy to People in Need During the Festive Season

Five hundred and ninety three Bissell Elf volunteers helped make this Christmas season especially warm and friendly! Two hundred and fifty heaping plates of turkey, vegetables, stuffing, and salad were served at our Christmas meal, 143 families received gifts through our Festive Giveaway event, and 228 people helped wrap gifts to raise funds for Bissell’s programs and services during our Gift Wrap for Bissell events. Thank you to each and every person who helped bring comfort and joy to the people who lean on Bissell Centre for support over the holidays!

Festive Season at Bissell

As we look back on 2017, we are reminded that the work that we do at Bissell Centre would never be possible without your support.

THANK YOU, from the bottom of our hearts!


Help create more memories like these by joining our family of supporters today.  Make a donation.

 

New Program Requires New Staff

We are currently recruiting for 8 new positions to complete our new 24/7 Crisis Service Diversion Team (CSDT).  These positions are called  Complex Support Workers and they will be responsible for providing support to referred participants through interventions and diversion services. The goal of the program is to decrease the inappropriate dependency of participants on medical services, police and judicial services.  DSC_0241
Some of the Complex Support Workers’ responsibilities include:

• Develop personal plans with participants and empower them in the achievement of their goals.
• Make appropriate supported referrals to housing, health and community services and provide advocacy support services with, or on behalf of, individuals as needed.
• Provide flexible one-on-one case management depending on the needs of the individual.
• Ensure placement in shelters, detox and short-term/immediate housing as needed and transitioned into permanent housing as able.

Some of the qualifications for the role are:

• Degree or Diploma in Social Science or related discipline.
• Minimum of one year related employment experience.
• Alberta Class 5 License, satisfactory driver’s abstract and a vehicle.
• Strong interpersonal skills, results oriented, good time management, strong organizational and problem-solving skills.
• Good working knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel programs.
• Familiarity with issues of poverty, homelessness and Edmonton’s urban core.
• Familiarity working with high risk populations and an understanding of Aboriginal cultures, history and current issues.

Review of applications will begin on 6th February 2013.  Selection and hiring will continue until all vacancies for this position are filled.
Interested candidates are invited to view the full job posting here –  Complex Support Worker 240113  – and submit a resume and cover letter (see details in the posting).

Bissell Centre History

Bissell Centre History