Bissell Centre’s Community Kitchen, part of the larger Community Space renovation, opened in October 2018 and has since been providing individuals who are experiencing homelessness and newly-housed program participants with the skills and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals.
Bissell Centre’s Jennifer McDonald-Robinson has been running the programming in the kitchen since it opened, and she is excited about the impact the community kitchen is making on the lives of the participants so far.
“For a lot of people who are living in poverty, it can become an all-encompassing thing. Poverty affects their emotional, mental, physical and every part of their well-being,” explains Jennifer. “The folks that access our services at Bissell are people coming from food insecure households and because of that they’re more likely to suffer from emotional, mental and physical health difficulties.”
Jennifer believes that by teaching program participants the skills to create nutritious and delicious food for themselves, it can help break that cycle of poverty and isolation.
“Just because they’re experiencing homelessness doesn’t mean they don’t like good food.”
“With most of the food for the community kitchen coming from the food bank, it gives participants an opportunity to learn what they can create from the food bank items,” explains Jennifer. “We can show them different ways to use a can of beans, because eating just a can of beans can be boring. Just because they’re experiencing homelessness doesn’t mean they don’t like good food.”
Jennifer goes on to explain that with poverty, there is also an isolation component. Having participants out and interacting in a positive space really helps ward off social isolation.
One of participant Barry’s favourite things about the community kitchen is getting to meet new people and to not be alone.
“There were two gentlemen who are accessing the program who were a bit withdrawn at first,” explains Jennifer. “But now they meet at the library to look up recipes for the program.”
Jennifer feels that having the opportunity to gather together in the kitchen gives people a boost to their social lives, which can be just as much of a benefit as the culinary skills they walk away with each week.
Barry is particularly excited about what he’s learning.
“It’s teaching me how to cook for myself and how to follow a recipe,” Barry explains.
For many program participants, inter-generational trauma has prevented them from acquiring the kitchen skills they need in their lives.
“They missed out on a lot of those basic teachings that perhaps a lot of other people have because of their trauma,” explains Jennifer. “And if they were taught those skills and experienced homelessness for a period of time, those skills lay dormant and they can forget them.”
“There were things I wasn’t taught… So now I’m learning them and I can cook for people.”
“There were things I wasn’t taught,” says participant Rocky. “So now I’m learning them and I can cook for people.”
This is why the simple act of creating a meal or a dish gives participants so much joy.
Bissell will be inviting local chefs to come in and teach program participants various kitchen techniques. Community Kitchen programs run on Mondays and Thursdays, as well as an indigenous walk-in program every 2nd Friday. Here, program participants are learning invaluable kitchen skills and building supportive relationships that will help them move out of poverty and feel empowered while doing so.
Got kitchen skills you’d like to share with our participants? We want to hear from you! Email Jen here.
Guest post by Jacquie DuVal
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
With your support this holiday season, we can make a big impact in the lives of people struggling with poverty in our community.
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. Your gift will make a difference in someone’s life.
2. Have Your Gifts Wrapped in Support of Bissell Centre
Between November 24th and December 24th, for a minimum donation of $2, have your Christmas gifts wrapped at Southgate Centre. All proceeds go to support Bissell Centre’s programs and services.
3. Volunteer with Us—Become a Bissell Elf!
We are looking for volunteers to lend a hand this holiday season. 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.
4. Turn Your Christmas Event into a Fundraiser!
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 Bissell Giving Tree Party!
5. Donate Warm Mitts and Boots
During the cold season, items such as gloves, mitts, and boots are critical to the health and safety of our participants. Unfortunately, the demand outweighs what we have to give. Donate gently used mitts and boots to help someone stay warm this winter.
6. Stay Tuned this Giving Tuesday!
Stay tuned for an exciting opportunity to make a huge impact this #GivingTuesday, November 28, 2017!
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!
Join us this holiday season in our quest to eliminate poverty and homelessness in our community.
Here are 7 simple ways you can make a big impact!
1. Provide Life-Changing Gifts
Choose a meaningful gift from our Holiday Gift Guide to benefit people struggling with poverty in our community. Your gift will make a difference in someone’s life.
2. Have Your gifts Wrapped in Support of Bissell Centre
Between November 12th and December 24th, for a minimum donation of $2, get your Christmas gifts wrapped at Southgate Centre.
3. Volunteer with Us–Become a Bissell Elf!
We are looking for hundreds of volunteers to help us with a variety of special events. These “Bissell Elves” will take part sorting donations, wrapping gifts, serving meals, and spreading good cheer alongside enthusiastic Bissell Elf Captains, who will help lead the way.
4. Turn Your Christmas Event into a Fundraiser!
This Christmas season, when you host a staff event or dinner party, you can also give to people in need. Find everything you need to host a Bissell Giving Tree Party!
5. Donate Warm Winter Clothing
Every year, Bissell Centre hands out over 35,000 articles of clothing free of charge to people. During the cold season, items such as winter coats, hats, and boots can be the difference between life and death. Donate your gently used goods to help someone in need.
6. Make a Gift on Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29th)!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about finding the deals. Consider donating the difference you saved to help people living in poverty. Your gift will impact those who rely on Bissell Centre for help. Please donate here today!
7. Share and Advocate!
Spread the word! 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!
This video was awarded First Place in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations PLURAL+ International Jury in the 13-17 age category. The video was also awarded First Place at Bethel College USA – Cornelius Kahn Multimedia Award for High School Students. The video is based on Paul Born’s book, Deepening Community. It is great reminder of the importance of community and our collective desire for living better, together.
In this issue:
- Moonlight Bay Centre – planning your retreat!
- Message from Mark Holmgren, CEO
- From Casual Labourer to Successful Business Owner
- A New Beginning: a family moving out of poverty
- Monthly Giving Opportunity!
- Donor Spotlight: EPCOR
- …and much more!
Click here to view or download it now!
Approximately one thousand Grand Slam breakfasts were sold during a seven hour time span at the downtown Denny’s Restaurant on Tuesday, March 4th! A special thanks to the staff and management at the Downtown Denny’s Restaurant for hosting the event and to everyone who came out to support the cause.
Over $2,500 (including generous donations) was raised to support Bissell Centre’s vision of eliminating poverty in our community. This was a great opportunity to connect with the surrounding community to spread awareness about issues facing impoverished individuals and families living in the inner-city.
Thanks to everyone who submitted a picture of your Grand Slam for the $100 Denny’s Gift Card prize!
View all the great photos of the event >
The other day I was talking with two of my staff about the increasing efforts we are seeing across the city to “move the homeless along.” Some who advocate for dispersing the homeless tell us it is better to scatter the homeless across the city than to allow them to congregate around places like Bissell Centre or to camp out in groups in the river valley or other “hidden” places. I am not really sure how it’s “better” but it appears the sentiment is shared by more than a few.
I do realize that the aesthetics of homelessness are unpleasant and can make those who have a home to go to each night uncomfortable, if not distressed by what often accompanies homelessness: drug use, public drinking, needles on the ground, and human waste in the back lanes. I get it. I don’t like it either. It is unsettling.
But moving the homeless along does nothing but make the reality of being homeless less visible, and perhaps for some the illusion that things are getting better. I don’t think it improves public safety or the safety of the homeless, and I am sure scattering the homeless does not solve the community’s problem of homelessness.
Being homeless is degrading and painful. Not having a place to call home hurts. It is humiliating to have nowhere to go to the bathroom. Drugs and alcohol are both among the many the activities that lead to homelessness and the means by which people escape the despair of having no home.
Solutions are not easy. Despite the hundreds of chronically homeless people we successfully house each year, we see more and more homeless people walking through our doors. Lately, we are seeing more families. The other night a family slept outside by Bissell Centre. One of them was a two-year old. Where should we move them along to? Read More…
At Bissell Centre, we want to ensure that we’re doing all that we can to enhance the quality of life for all who live, work and frequent the McCauley Area, where we’ve been based since 1910.
Part of our commitment is playing a role in helping to revitalize our community, making it a cleaner and more accommodating place for everyone.
We pay attention to what happens in our community and our city in order to be the best neighbours that we can. The McCauley Revitalization Strategy, which took shape a couple of years ago, has allowed us to continually focus on our role in improving our community. Cleanliness was a key concern identified by all parties who helped in the formation of the strategy.
For us, this provided an amazing opportunityâ€¦
With grant funding becoming available through the City of Edmonton, we’re proud to say that we were successful in recruiting a Clean Streets Coordinator! The Clean Streets Coordinator will be able to hire teams of people who are registered in our Casual Labour Program. It will assist us to work with businesses, individuals and other agencies in the community to make our streets and public spaces cleaner and safer.
Helping to revitalize the community, support those looking for work, enhancing our role in developing our community and working to eliminating poverty by empowering peopleâ€¦its part of what we do!