Close Call: Scott and Amy Avoid Eviction Thanks to ‘Community Bridge’

It was an injury at work that knocked Scott’s world off balance. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did, leading Scott down an uncertain path. He and his wife, Amy were not able to make ends meet; they were facing an eviction notice and the power and heat were getting disconnected. As self-sustaining people, Scott and Amy were looking for an opportunity to weather the storm that they were in, to find a loan and to pay it back. They didn’t want social assistance and didn’t know where to turn until they were referred to the Community Bridge program at the Bissell Centre.

“The program is a Godsend,” says Scott. “It is the difference between some people giving up and thinking they would end up on the street and actually giving it another shot and getting back on your feet.”

He made his first re-payment on the 1st of August, which went directly towards a late payment for rent to stave off an eviction notice.
It was right down to the wire too. A family member was going to lend them the money right before they applied for the Community Bridge program; however, circumstance led to the family member being unable to lend the money. Without the Community Bridge program, Scott and Amy would have been evicted from their apartment.

“When the money came through, it was literally a life saver.” -Scott

 

Scott feels that it’s easy for people to generalize how difficult it is for others; and often, those who are better-off don’t realize that people going through a tough time don’t have the time or the resources needed to fix problems themselves. They can get bogged down by the system, and Scott feels that it gives peace of mind know that there is a program that can help people climb out of the stress and situations they are facing.

“It’s nice to know that you can get help, without going though the ringer to get it,” says Scott. “Dealing with the Bissell Centre, it’s more ‘if we can help you, we will.’ It wasn’t so detail or procedure oriented, but more ‘let’s get you back on your feet oriented,’ which, at the end of the day is often what people need to hear to not feel like the world is coming to a quick end on them.”

He wishes more people knew about the Community Bridge Program. Having benefitted so much from Bissell Centre’s help, he wants to volunteer and help raise awareness of the incredible work that Bissell does to help people in the community get back on their feet.

Thanks to the support of funding partners like ENMAX, we have been able to help hundreds of people like Scott and Amy avoid eviction.
Visit Bissell Centre’s Housing Services to learn more about the Community Bridge Program and our efforts to provide stable housing and financial support for people living in poverty.

7 Memorable Highlights of 2018

This past year brought a lot of positive change and much to be celebrated. Each change has brought us one step closer to our goal of eliminating poverty in our community. Thanks to our incredible supporters, we saw some huge successes and were able to better serve our participants’ needs. Here are 7 of the most notable happenings of 2018.

1) Supporters Raise $78,000 in Winter Walk Fundraiser – Sponsored by DistributionNOW

On February 24th, Edmontonians walked 2, 5 or 10k in the shoes of those experiencing poverty and homelessness for our first year hosting the Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) national fundraising walk. Over 340 walkers and 61 teams came together and walked in freezing temperatures to help us raise over $75,000 for our programs, while local businesses like LOVEPizza and The Nook Café provided warmth and treats for our walkers. #WalkForBissell again on February 23rd during this year’s Coldest Night of the Year.


2) Newly Renovated Community Space Opens

On June 11th, we officially opened the doors of our newly renovated Community Space! Our new space has dramatically improved people’s ability to access services to meet their basic needs, connect to supports, develop skills, and build relationships, all of which are essential to overcoming poverty and homelessness. Our thanks goes out to Inter Pipeline and other amazing supporters that provided the funds for this project. Learn more and watch the video tour here!


3) Over 20,000 Bottles of Water Donated During Heatwave

This past summer in Edmonton brought record high temperatures and relentless heat waves. In response to our social media callout, generous individuals and numerous companies donated over 20,000 bottles of water to keep people on the streets hydrated, in addition to summer clothing and other readily available supplies like hats and sunscreen. Thanks to the support of our community, our participants were able to keep cool and hydrated during the hot, summer days.


4) Funding Received to Continue Eviction Prevention Program

In November, we were thrilled to announce that funding had been renewed for our Community Bridge Program! This program helps our participants prevent imminent eviction and provides interventions and services to ensure the causes of the eviction are effectively addressed to prevent re-occurrence. Thanks to the generosity of our partners ENMAX, Edmonton Community Foundation, and EndPovertyEdmonton, participants like Millie and Wendy will continue to have a safe home to return to at night.


 5) Over 9,000 Pairs of Underwear Collected During Annual Drive

In July, we held our 5th annual Drop Your Gonch Underwear Drive. Underwear is one of the most highly requested, yet least donated items for our participants. This year, the local community blew us away with their support. We originally set out with a goal of 5,000 donated pairs, but once the donations started coming in, we increased it to 6,000, then 8,000, and ending up collecting over 9,000 pairs! The underwear donations helped us bring dignity to those experiencing homelessness, and we couldn’t have been more grateful.


6) Initial Funding Received to Expand and Relocate Childcare Centre

After 45 years in operation, our Childcare is expanding to meet the needs of even more families in Edmonton. We will be creating 30 new full-time spots for our accredited childcare services, in addition to the 40 free respite spots already available. Our current facility is too small to accommodate the expansion, so we will be moving to a new location in the heart of the McCauley community. While the initial funding has been secured to move forward with the project, we are still in need of additional funds to complete the renovation. Check out the initial design renderings of the new Centre here. Interested in supporting and learning more? Please contact Kelly Hoskins.


7) Participants get Cooking in New Community Kitchen

In October, we opened the Community Kitchen in our new Community Space. After identifying a lack of basic cooking knowledge as a barrier to keeping newly-housed individuals in their homes, we developed programming that allows participants to build skills, improve health, and foster relationships through cooking classes, workshops and community meals. Our participants have made some delicious meals together, including Ham and Corn Chowder with Bannock, Roasted Chicken with a Pineapple Ginger Glaze, and Shepherd’s Pie. Yum! Learn more about our Community Kitchen here.


 
We are humbled by the continued support of our amazing community. The work we do at Bissell Centre wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of people like you!

From all of us here at Bissell, THANK YOU for helping empower people to move from poverty to prosperity! We can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring!


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

 

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!

Community Bridge Program Helps Wendy Avoid Homelessness

Wendy has fond memories of her childhood on Sugar Lake in British Columbia. She describes fishing and collecting clams with her brothers and sisters and canning salmon with her mother in their old house. She says she can usually rely on those memories to get her through the tough times.

Now, at sixty-four, Wendy says things haven’t been exactly easy since those carefree summer days. In an effort to repress memories of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in her childhood, Wendy struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for a number of years.

After she got married, Wendy moved to Edmonton, where her husband was transferred for work. It was only a few years later that she and her husband divorced, leaving her alone in an unfamiliar city.

Especially hard for Wendy was the death of her mother, which happened shortly after Wendy moved away from the family home in BC. “She passed away quickly,” said Wendy. “We just had a family get together. Her ashes were spread out by Sugar Lake.”

Despite the hardship, Wendy made things work. Independent and resourceful, she even managed to thrive in her new city, working multiple jobs; at times as a journalist for the paper, at times cleaning carpets or working at the sandwich shop or the bingo hall. She made many friends and got treated by a psychiatrist for the pain she still dealt with. Wendy has always loved riding horses, and she said they helped her heal.

But Wendy’s luck ran out one day when her bad knees forced her to retire from her job at the paper. Her living situation was far from ideal at the time. “The stove was old, falling apart,” she said. “The counters were old and had a wooden board on them; you pull that out and there were flower bugs there.”

The neighbourhood she lived in was unsafe and difficult to access. And, having lost her main source of income, she suddenly faced eviction.

“I was on the verge of being on the street.”

 

Soon after, Wendy was connected with Kathy from Bissell Centre’s Community Bridge program. Community Bridge offers support to people at risk of becoming homeless by supplementing rent or utilities payments and providing educational workshops.

With Community Bridge’s support, Wendy found a new apartment in a safe neighbourhood. “I love where I am now,” she said. “I can walk down to my bank and to the library. That place is clean, it’s safe… I’m very happy there.”

Besides accessing Community Bridge, Wendy also visits Bissell Centre to take advantage of the Women’s Lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for occasional community meals. She’s taken Bissell’s Ready-to-Rent workshop and has become “great friends” with Kathy, her case worker.

Wendy can’t help but feel fortunate when she thinks of all the people in her city who don’t have a place to call home. “I don’t think anybody should live like that,” she said.

Wendy still thinks back to those summer days with her family on Sugar Lake. Although it will never quite be the same again, she takes comfort from her past and feels hope for the future. She talks about riding her horses again when her knees improve, and continuing on her journey to health and healing, knowing all the while that she won’t have to do any of it alone.


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

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

 

Finding Peace: Millie’s Story

My name is Millie and today I’m thankful to have a home, my health, and one year of sobriety.

Two years ago I was facing eviction and homelessness. Without Bissell Centre’s hot meals, I would have gone hungry, and without help from their caring staff, I would have ended up back on the streets.

I’ve been battling addiction, violence, and poverty all my life. I grew up in a turbulent, sometimes violent household.

After watching and experiencing the cycle of substance abuse in my family, I vowed I’d never drink, but things didn’t go the way I planned.

At 24, I fell in love, got married, and had two children. After a few years together, my husband’s behaviour became all too familiar. He had an alcohol addiction and was becoming increasingly violent. I started coping by drinking as well.

Soon, I was forced to pack up my kids and move into my car until we could get into a shelter.

Life as a single-parent was never easy, but I was determined to give my kids a good life. My kids and I have had many successes together, but sadly, the pain of my childhood and married years was always there in the background. Achieving sobriety has become a lifelong battle, adding extra challenges to my already complicated life.

“I was struggling to put food on the table. Without Bissell Centre’s daily meals, I would have gone hungry.”

 

Two years ago my rent was raised unexpectedly. This increase meant that after paying for rent, my phone bill, and a bus pass, I was left with $30 per month for all other costs. Needless to say, I was struggling to put food on the table.

Bissell Centre’s program, Community Bridge helped me with rent and utilities in my time of emergency. I was so incredibly relieved to get help, and not be struggling by myself anymore.

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.

Today, I’ve been sober for almost a year. Every day sober is an achievement. I am also a Peer Outreach Worker providing street-level support for people dealing with addictions and I’m finally at peace with myself and my world.

Read our full February Newsletter, including a special message from our CEO.

Millie Finds Peace in her New Home

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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