For Sarah Higgins, Director of Indigenous Engagement at Bissell Centre, the word that comes most to mind when she thinks about National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is ceremony. She explains how every Indigenous member of Bissell Centre’s staff and community has a direct correlation to or has been directly impacted by residential schools.
“It’s a way to express our grief and heal from our losses in a healthy and enriching way,” says Higgins. Bissell Centre is holding its own National Day for Truth and Reconciliation ceremony on September 29 from noon to 9:00 p.m. and will feature a pipe ceremony, a Round Dance, and a traditional feast provided by Red Seal Indigenous Chef Matthew Potts.
A History of Indigenous Cultural Ceremonies
While Bissell Centre’s event in downtown Edmonton (10527 96 Street) is open to everyone, it’s far from a celebration. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was born from the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – and after mass graves were found at multiple sites of residential schools across the country. Cultural Support Worker Brandon Lee-McDonald explains how at one point, holding this very event would have landed everyone participating in prison.
“Up until 1951, when the Indian Act was amended, we weren’t allowed to have our drum circles, we had to change the names of our ceremonies, we essentially had to hide in the bushes to express our cultural identity,” says Lee-McDonald. “Our ancestors suffered and died so we could hold our ceremonies in public again. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t be able to have this ceremony in downtown Edmonton.”
What this Day Means at Bissell Centre
A tenant of the National Truth and Reconciliation event at Bissell Centre is honouring those who survived residential schools. There will be a list of survivors in attendance during the event, to recognize their resilience in the face of an atrocity that took so many.
It might look like we’re celebrating at our National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event, but we’re mourning and grieving,” says Lee-McDonald. “We’re acknowledging the survivors of residential schools and honouring them. This is our day to mourn in a healthy way from our past traumas.”
While everyone at the National Truth and Reconciliation Day event at Bissell Centre will be commemorating that they’re still here, there is still a lot of healing to be done. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation may be about grief and healing, but it’s also about empowerment and reclamation.
“This is a day given to us by the Creator,” says Lee-McDonald. “It was given to help us grieve and heal and be healthy. We want to take this day for our ceremony and live our truths in our cultural identity. It’s a big deal we can hold this ceremony on the streets of Edmonton.”
Kari’s eviction notice came swiftly. She had a month to find new accommodations for her and her adult sons with special needs. Unsure how she could find a place on such short notice, Kari considered all her options, from living in a storage unit to even living in her car. Then she remembered a community organization.
“I knew about Bissell Centre—I worked with Bissell Centre while teaching a crafting course,” Kari says. Despite her prior knowledge of the organization, Kari was surprised to learn about the Community Bridge program and how it could help her secure a new home.
As part of the Community Bridge program, Kari was given a $2,000 open-ended, interest-free loan to cover her damage deposit and rent, which she paid back proudly. “I wanted to make sure that resource was there and ready for the next person who needed help.”
A Kokum’s Giving Spirit
This giving spirit is typical for Kari – whose community frequently refers to her as the Community Kokum, or grandmother, providing love, support, and guidance whenever and wherever she can. Even when her pantry was empty and her power shut off, Kari still looked after others and considered her situation manageable.
“I’ve had to flee domestic violence,” says Kari. “While in the shelters, I saw many women in similar situations and how much worse off I could have been. I never saw myself as a victim. I have a lot of resilience that’s helped me through some tough times.”
Prior to reaching out to Community Bridge, Kari faced many uphill battles – especially when it came to where she called home. Kari has moved four times in four years through low-income housing and encountered varying levels of domestic violence and abuse. She’s also struggled with her adult children’s special needs, experienced houselessness while seven months pregnant and underwent multiple medical procedures. Kari tried to push through it without any outside help, but when she needed assistance, she knew Bissell Centre would be there with solutions. However, Kari wasn’t expecting this amount of support from Bissell Centre’s Community Bridge.
“Everything with Community Bridge was no pressure and fell into place seamlessly,” Kari explains. “It took two weeks to learn I had a loan and two weeks after that, I secured my place. I took possession of my new home before I moved out of the last place.”
How Community Bridge Helped Kari
The Community Bridge program is essential to Bissell Centre’s operations. Between April 2022 and March 2023, the Community Bridge program prevented 511 individuals from housing-loss, resulting in 214 households served, with another 202 households assisted with loans. Ensuring people don’t lose their homes and experience houselessness is the team’s top priority – so the first place they look to help folks out is with their current landlords. The team negotiates on behalf of the people they’re helping to prevent any untimely evictions.
When landlords are unable to negotiate any further and eviction is imminent, Community Bridge Support Workers then work directly with the people who need a new place to live, helping make the transition to their new place as seamless as possible.
Partners Make These Programs Possible
A program like this wouldn’t be possible without our partners in the community, like ENMAX. Their support has been crucial for Community Bridge to help people find places to call home.
And as Kari points out, it’s not just finding and funding new spaces that makes this program indispensable – it’s the regular follow-ups and wraparound services that have helped keep her and her family in their new home.
“I think more people should check out Bissell Centre to know what it has to offer,” says Kari. “Without Community Bridge, I would be experiencing houselessness. I never thought I would be in that position. Bissell Centre made sure I still had a place my sons and I could call home.”
Individuals connected to our Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services (FASS) program contributed to a book about the challenges and realities of navigating life with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Under the guidance of Jared Epp, Carleton University PhD candidate and former housing support worker with Bissell Centre, who facilitated the group in sharing stories of what was most important to them. Fifteen people shared their stories, captured in this captivating collection. Born Broken is a book that’s an immersive experience into what it means to have FASD and the barriers it can create.
The group celebrated the release of this Born Broken book this past month with a small and intimate reading and sharing. Everyone who contributed to the book received a copy, and a few were shared around the community to help spread its positive message.
Copies of Born Broken books are available to purchase from the Bissell Thrift Shop on 118 Avenue..
Below is the preface to the book, written by Jared Epp. This firsthand experience of seeing the collection come together illuminated the importance of this book for the contributors and for those about to read it and gain a better understanding of FASD.
Preface from Born Broken
A group of individuals connected to Bissell Centre’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services (FASS) came together for a book project. The goal was to provide an opportunity for folks to share whatever kind of content they wanted. Leaving it open-ended allowed the individuals participating in the project to share what was meaningful to them. Their contributions didn’t have to only be about living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). A number of contributors did want to share their stories about living with FAD, about their daily challenges, as well as the impact of receiving their diagnosis. Others talked about different things. There are stories about adventure on Edmonton’s public transit, sewing denim, dreaming, making music and art, the challenges of finding and keeping a job and many other events and situations the reader will soon encounter.
Woven throughout the book are stories, ideas, frustrations, thoughts and reflections, offering a window into the experience of entering into the world a certain way.
In our last group meeting, we had to come up with a title for the book. Each contributor present was invited to come up with some titles, and then there would be a vote.
These were the title ideas:
- Born Broken
- The Struggle is Real
- Drumbeats of Hope
- Light in the Dark
- Perfectly Imperfect
- Getting Dealt a Bad Hand
Everyone had agreed on Heidi’s subtitle, “Reflections on Life and Resiliency from Individuals living with FASD,” as it put a positive spin on the main title.
Born Broken won by one vote over The Struggle is Real and Light in the Dark. There was a lot of discussion and debate on the chosen title. Some people felt it was too negative, but they also acknowledged it’s sentiment. In many ways, the titles and the debate around it set a theme that echoes through each story: individuals confronting and overcoming something they were born with, have no control over, and yet seems invisible to those outside the lived experience of FASD. The reader is invited to encounter the diverse contributions within the book, keeping in mind the unsettled nature of its title and the realities of living with FASD.
Here’s some quick math: If one person had 15,000 pairs of underwear, they could wear a new pair every day for close to 30 years.
At Bissell Centre, we give out 15,000 pairs of new underwear to our Community Members every six months – and the need is still growing.
Underwear isn’t often the first need most people think about when they want to support folks experiencing poverty. Oftentimes, clean underwear makes a huge difference not only in someone’s personal feelings and outlook. It can also help with physical and mental health issues that can be life-changing.
Physical Health Benefits of Clean Underwear
Underwear accumulates a lot of microbes from your body and collects bacteria that can fester without washing. Not only is that an awful odour to try to live in, but it also sticks to the skin and, if left for too long, can lead to infections. It’s even a direct cause of kidney failure and bladder cancer.
Changing into clean underwear is the only way to reduce that risk. If we have no underwear to give out to folks, it’s likely that many more people will be going into emergency rooms and dying from something so easily preventable.
Mental Health Benefits of Clean Underwear
A lot of difference can be made with a little more comfort. A stop by our Community Space includes a hot shower, a meal, some time to do laundry, and a stop by the Community Closet for some fresh clothes. Those four steps are crucial to folks deciding to take the next step and look for help to find their way out of poverty. When you’re working through hard times, fresh underwear is priceless.
This is where we build trust and watch their self-confidence grow. They’re not afraid to talk to people anymore. They’re okay opening up about what their goals look like. Then they start to feel dignity and understand they are worth more than their challenges or their situation. This is when they reach out for help with their mental health, addictions, housing, and employment.
15,000 Pairs of Underwear Donations are Needed
For as long as Bissell Centre has been giving clothes to folks who need them most, underwear has been the single most requested item – but it’s also the least donated. That’s why, each year, we run the Drop Your Gonch campaign. Folks don’t often think about underwear – it’s an embarrassing topic. It’s also an important topic – especially for folks in our community.
Make sure to check out the Drop Your Gonch information page for drop-off locations, donation wish lists, and lists of items we can’t accept.
And think of underwear the next time you get a bag of donations together. Pick up a fresh pair on your way and drop them in the bag. A quick extra step could change a life.
Bissell’s National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration weeks ago brought 96 St. right outside Bissell to life. Bissell Centre has been celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day, proclaimed in 1996 by the Canadian Government, for well over a decade! This year, it was so much more than a block party– our team made sure this was a celebration to remember.
Keeping Traditions Alive
Our Food Services kitchen team made traditional stew and Bannock for everyone who attended. In total, they served more than 900 meals! Elders from the community held a traditional pipe ceremony to kick things off. They shared stories of struggle and expressed why the customs and traditions they grew up with are so important to folks from Indigenous communities.
Energetic Local Performances
Families enjoyed the traditional hand games from Indigenous communities. Plus, dance and music performances from the Thunder Lake Singers & Dancers and flutist Theo Waskahat. The block was alive with music, drumming, and dancing for the whole community to enjoy.
Sharing and Learning Together
National Indigenous Peoples Day is always an amazing celebration, but this year’s was truly one to remember. We’re so happy and grateful for everyone who came out, participated, shared their gifts, and helped make sure Indigenous customs and traditions will stay alive for the people who need them most.
National Indigenous Peoples Day 2023 Photo Highlights
In 2022, Bissell Centre took a long hard look at itself and asked what can be a scary question – what are our 2SLGBTQIA+ team and community members experiencing here? What does Pride at Bissell look like? Are these folks being embraced and celebrated? Are they comfortable being their truest selves here?
41 team members participated in a survey focused on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues – 12 from 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. The results of the survey were promising, and a lot of organizations would take that as a sweeping success and end their efforts there. Instead, we wondered how best to push our organization even further.
Through the results of this survey, summer intern J. Heber looked at the qualitative stats, thought about how they represented the diverse 2SLGBTQIA+ presence at Bissell Centre, and created a fibre art piece to represent that diversity across the organizations.
It is an expression of all the different flags and colours that express the different gender identities and sexual orientations that makeup Pride. Today, it proudly hangs in our Community Space. It stands as a reminder to folks that our diversity is our strength, and inclusion is essential. It also features seeds and the words, “Let’s Grow Together,” demonstrating the seeds of compassion and the thirst for knowledge that helps us all better understand and appreciate one another.
We’re going to let our 2SLGBTQIA+ staff members speak for themselves. Exploring, in their own words, how Bissell Centre is working to improve equity for 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, what their experiences have been like at Bissell, and what Pride month means to them.
Bissell Centre gives out free rainbow stickers to everyone. I want to point this out first and foremost. It’s the first thing I think about when I think about how Bissell Centre is a safe space.
I joined Bissell Centre in 2020, and I wasn’t sure if I should be open about my gender identity. I saw a lot of staff here be comfortable and open and safe with who they are. Everyone here makes the effort to use my preferred pronouns (he/him) – and anyone who mistakenly uses the wrong pronouns is quick to apologize and correct it. That makes me feel respected and cared for by Bissell Centre.
Especially compared to my home country, Bissell Centre is welcoming to who I truly am. Here, I get to show my Pride without shame or any fear. I get to be open, and that’s important not just for me but for anyone who wants to express their Pride.
Even our community participants treat 2SLGCTQIA+ people with respect and equality. No one ever has anything negative to say about the clothes we choose, how we present, or how we choose to look according to our gender identity. Having this freedom and acceptance is so important for 2SLGBTQIA+ folks and how we can contribute back to our communities.
When I was placed at Bissell Centre for my social work practicum, I was nervous about entering a new space. Being a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, I am always wary when entering a new space. I don’t know if it’s safe, if I will be harassed or if I can truly be myself.
I remember about a month into my practicum, I mentioned how I noticed there wasn’t really any noticeable visual representation to let new staff and community members know that Bissell is a queer-friendly space. So, we came up with the idea for me to create a 2SLGBTQIA+ resource list for both staff and community members.
Then, I started noticing pride flag stickers placed on doors and laptops. My supervisor told me because I had the courage to identify the gap between Bissell and the queer community, she ordered gender-neutral bathroom signs for the bathrooms in the Community Space. I couldn’t believe that I was a catalyst for these changes. Bissell Centre is not just another group that celebrates pride once a year. They listen to the concerns people have and do what they can to improve.
The community members make Bissell Centre different too. I often get comments that I give off two-spirit energy. I learned that two-spirit folks in Indigenous culture are sacred, which makes me feel honoured. I don’t currently identify as two-spirit – the community members made me curious, and I have since been exploring that side of myself. Because the community members and the staff have created a judgment-free space, it has allowed me to safely be my true self.
Black History Month can easily go forgotten in Edmonton. On the surface, the Black experience isn’t as prevalent in our culture as it in in the United States. But Edmonton is no stranger to the influence and celebrations from our Black communities. Just ask anyone who’s been to the Cariwest Festival or explored the excellent vendors at Black Owned Market (BOM) YEG.;
Though Black History Month is rooted in the American Black experience and celebrating the achievements of Black folks despite the history of slavery and continued systemic racism, there is a lot of Black experience here in Edmonton absolutely worth celebrating. And though the stories look different on the surface, the underlying themes remain very consistent.
Viewpoint from a Sociologist
Samuel Enyon is a Family Support worker with Bissell Centre, who earned his master’s degree when he was studying in Madrid. Originally from Uganda, Samuel looks at his own and his family and community members’ journeys to Canada and relates very closely to what’s being expressed with Black History Month.
He explains that a lot of the context that people from African and Caribbean countries bring when they arrive in Edmonton does tend to be white-centric. In addition, further barriers to Black success can play a devastating role for Black families looking to settle and find a better life.
Bissell Centre Helps Bridge the Gap
Oftentimes, foreign credentials aren’t recognized in Canada, making employment difficult for a lot of new Canadians. This is one of the biggest barriers faced by new Canadians. Samuel himself sees families come by the community space, fully prepared to sleep on the streets.
Samuel once worked with an immigrant family that came from an African country, and all they could speak was Portuguese. The father managed to string a few English words together, just enough to have them referred to Bissell Centre Family support. When they arrived, the father broke down in tears. The family had spent three years getting to Edmonton. They passed through Central America, slept in wetlands, and one of the children nearly drowned.
“Who knows if the family understands the amount of trauma they went through?” Samuel recounts. “I was so fortunate that my team was able to put some things aside to further help this family with whatever resources they could find.”
With no options available within the formal system to keep this family from sleeping on the streets, the lead looked to Samuel for ideas. He suggested calling their country association in Edmonton. It wasn’t long before the family found sponsors to host them, and they quickly moved into their own permanent housing.
In his own words, Samuel says, “it was the first time I had seen an organization put so much into helping a Black family.”
Blended stories and shared fates for Edmontonians
As Samuel recounts the story of the family, he points to the similarities, systemic barriers, and opportunities that all new Canadians may encounter.
“To me, Black History Month is a celebration of a lot of different cultures who’ve struggled and overcome,” says Samuel. “The stories are different. But the similarities are very close, and this is a coming together to empower the most vulnerable in our societies.”
Considering himself lucky and well-positioned as a family support worker at Bissell Centre, Samuel meets families from all races, cultural backgrounds, and nations. To him, expressing the need for us as humanity to reach across the table and seize every opportunity to treat each other as humanely as possible drives his work at Bissell Centre.
Samuel stresses that Black history month needs to be celebrated every day of our lives. “Each and every one of us should find it in our hearts to practice kindness, empathy, and love,” says Samuel. “We can come together to ask the inconvenient questions and seek a better understanding of each other and not be so quick to classify each other.”
Spending a night outside in Edmonton’s harsh winters can take its toll on people. In 2021, it’s estimated that 222 people experiencing houselessness in Edmonton died – many from avoidable deaths such as from exposure. That is a 70 per cent increase from the year before. Between 2021 and 2022, there were 786 reported cases of extreme frostbite, with 91 leading to amputations.
For countless Edmontonians, there is a very real prospect that they may experience houselessness. The Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser walk through downtown gives a small glimpse into what experiencing houselessness can be like.
This Year’s Walk for Bissell
Our goal in 2023 is to raise upwards of $120,000, after last year’s successful walk where we raised $140,000. Walkers are coming together on February 25, 2023, for either the two or five kilometre walk through downtown Edmonton – with teams raising funds since December and continuing to raise funds until one month after the walk.
Not only is this a fun way to bring awareness to a serious issue in our city, but you can also see directly how those funds raised make a difference to the community. This is the sixth year that Bissell Centre is taking part in Coldest Night of the Year – and the first back in-person after the pandemic.
The funds raised for the downtown Coldest Night of the Year walk go directly back to Bissell Centre’s programs, ensuring that our city’s most vulnerable have the services they need to live with a better quality of life.
A History of Helping Those Experiencing Houselessness
Coldest Night of the Year was established in 2011 when three Ontario Ministries wanted to bring attention to what folks who are experiencing houselessness need to endure over Canada’s harsh winters. They started with a goal to raise $40,000 – by the end of the walk, they had raised well over $111,000.
This fundraiser was quickly adopted across Canada and the US, with 166 different locations hosting their own walks with funds going back to local community organizations. In 2022, more than $12 million was raised by more than 31,000 individual walkers in Canada and the US.
You can still contribute to this amazing fundraiser. Donate to a team (or start your own!), donate to someone walking, or support us directly at Bissell Centre by donating to the Walk with Bissell team. Check out our local event site and contribute today. With your help, we can reach our $120,000 goal and continue serving those most vulnerable in our city.
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.
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.