Russell’s Story of Hope and Renewal

When Russell came to us, he had been sleeping under trees, struggling to find work. After spending a decade stuck in a cycle of addiction and poverty, he knew it was time to make a change.

Life had not been easy for Russell. As a child growing up in a family of eight, he recalls getting teased because of his hand-me-downs and for the holes in his clothes. Food was limited, as his dad worked to support six children. As a teen, Russell was incredibly talented at baseball—it was something he could have pursued as a career. But his family just didn’t have the money to support his dream.

As an adult, Russell lived and worked in Fort McMurray with his wife. However, times became difficult when his relationship came to an end. He sold his house and moved to Edmonton where he struggled to find work and a place to live. Unable to cope with the past and deal with his current situation, Russell turned to alcohol to numb his pain. For the next 10 years, homelessness became a way of life for Russell as he struggled with addiction and loneliness. Russell recalls the most difficult part of living on the streets was being so isolated: “There was nobody. Just me.”

There was nobody. Just me.

 

One day, Russell saw someone in coveralls heading to work and asked them where he could go to find a job. That’s when he first heard about Bissell Centre. He quickly reached out for help. Although overcoming his addiction wasn’t easy, with Bissell Centre’s help, Russell managed to find and maintain steady work as a landscaper. Today, he still works for the same company after nine years of employment.

Our generous donors have directly impacted people like Russell, and for that he is so grateful. “It gives me the opportunity to start growing up like a tree,” he shares. “Look at me, I’m 100% happy!”

Not only did a steady income give Russell the confidence to sustain a livelihood, the housing program helped him to find a home and a family. “I know when I’m coming home, I’m coming home,” shares Russell. He is so grateful to have security and to be leading a dignified life—a life of growth and transformation that he hopes can spread to others who are struggling.

“I can get up and put a cup of coffee on and I go up there in the cupboard to get something to eat,” he says. “I don’t have to stand in line-ups.”

As the season of gratitude approaches, Russell looks forward to sharing his gratitude at Bissell Centre’s Thanksgiving dinner. He reminisces about how wonderful it was to be a part of something when he was feeling alone.

“Everything looked so perfect—from the cloths on the tables to the flowers in the pots,” he says. “It was so well organized and well done.” It is these meals that are often the first steps towards growth and transformation for those who are struggling.

Like Russell, we are so incredibly grateful for your gifts that have supported so many people throughout the years. Thank you for supporting our programs that have done so much for our Edmonton community!

Joe gets a very good job

Hard as things got for Joe* he never gave up. Bissell Centre never gave up on him either. Look at what happened!
Employed for many years in the hospitality industry, Joe faced some serious health problems. He couldn’t sustain full time work so Bissell Centre helped with casual labour placements when Joe needed some work. Joe’s health problems were so serious they required six operations to address. Demoralized and losing hope, he was encouraged by social workers to apply for AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped).

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Through his ongoing relationship with Employment Services, Joe felt he had” someone in his corner” and never completely gave up. Our Jobs First coordinator got to work with Joe and together they took actions to increase Joe’s skill development, self-awareness, confidence, and his competencies.

Last week Joe completed his second interview with a major Canadian coffee company and was hired as the Regional Manager for Quality Control. Joe’s new position will start in mid-August and his starting wage is $60,000 plus a generous benefits package.

Joe told us he now wants to speak at our pre-employment sessions about his positive experience in our Employment Services program but more importantly to act as a testimony to never giving up.

Our mission is to work with others to move people from poverty to prosperity. When you support Bissell Centre, this one example of how you help change lives.

Please consider supporting Bissell Centre’s life-changing work in our community.

Click Here to Donate.

* Not his real name

Putting People to Work

[cross posted from our Face Book page– please check out our Facebook postings!]

A line starts to form at 6:30 am each morning at the Bissell Centre Drop-in. By 7:00 am, the line builds upwards to 200 individuals. What’s surprising to people is that 50-75 of those in line aren’t there for a meal or a place to rest; they  are there for work.

Bissell Centre partners with 500+ employers to provide casual labour jobs for people in need. People who are working–hard–to climb out of poverty & homelessness.  In 2013, our Casual Labour Program helped provide 14,000 positions, putting nearly  one million dollars in the pockets of Edmontonians living in poverty.

This year we are exploring ways to expand our capacity to place more people in jobs, not only casual labour placements, but also in longer terms contracts and permanent positions. Stay tuned for more as the year progresses.

Learn more about our Employment Services and our Casual Labour Program.

Revitalizing our Community

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.

Revitalization

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 opportunity…

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 people…its part of what we do!

Bissell Centre in Desperate Need of Steel-Toe Boots to Help People Find Work!

Bissell Centre is urging the public to help… ensuring those in need can continue to receive job opportunities that require safety equipment. As construction season ramps up in our city, Bissell Centre is in great need of 200 pairs of new and gently used men’s steel-toe boots, size 9 – 12 to ensure low income individuals looking for work are able to get jobs and work safely.

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Guided by the vision of eliminating poverty in our community, Bissell Centre works with others to empower people to move from poverty to prosperity. “Employment Services plays a key role in connecting Edmonton’s impoverished population with meaningful work placements,” says Mark Holmgren, CEO Bissell Centre. “Many placements require basic safety equipment, which Bissell Centre normally provides, but currently there are no steel-toe boots available for program participants.”

We are asking the community-minded citizens of Edmonton to donate CSA approved steel-toe boots to us at 10527 96 Street, or our Thrift Shoppe Sorting Centre at 8818 118 Ave.

OR you can donate to buy a pair and get a tax receipt using our donations page.

Bissell Centre’s no-fee job placement service, its Casual Labour program, helps the community by connecting employers and workers, enabling placements to occur seven days a week. In 2012 the program saw remarkable success in filling over 14,000 placements, putting $1M into the hands of the less fortunate community. Since many of the placements are helping with concrete labour, roofing installation, and construction labour, steel-toe boots are often a necessity to being able to assist our impoverished population in finding employment and helping them move out of poverty.

In addition to temporary placements Bissell Centre provides worker training; this includes work preparedness programs, pre-employment training, safety training, employment counseling, resume building and life skills training.

For more information about Bissell Centre Employment Services please contact Mark Bubel, Employment Services Manager at 780-423-2285 ext 139.   

With Motivation & Support, Change Can Happen

Recently out of jail, a man came to Bissell Centre looking to make a change in his life. He showed a great deal of motivation, but needed some assistance to gain additional skills and confidence to start a career and get a full-time job.  He joined our Moving Up pre-employment program and looked to his peers and program facilitator for support.  Through the course of the four week program we helped him develop a work plan, complete job searches, and pick an industry for work – construction!
Through the training (safety tickets), coaching, supported job searches, resume building, and interview skills he received, he now is working full-time in the construction industry and making $27/hour!

If you would like to support our work in helping people make positive changes in their life, and motivating them to move from poverty to prosperity, please visit our Donate page.

 

All Sides of the Coin – Part 2 “Participant”

Bissell Centre employee Sissy Thiessen shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is a three-part series that will be published separately.
By: Sissy Thiessen

PART 2: Me as a Participant of Bissell Centre

The next phase I entered in my journey at Bissell was on the other side of the table- as a program participant. While I was still a volunteer, the manager of Food Services offered me an opportunity to participate in a First Aid Course as part of a women’s program that was running at the time. It was a full day course, offering a certificate in Standard First Aid, as well as infant-level CPR c. Realizing an opportunity for professional development when I see one, I jumped at the offer. There were about 10 of us, all appearing to be of First Nations descent. Some were with child, others said they had to make stressful arrangements to coordinate child care for the day.   Read More…

Getting Off the Street with Support and a Full Time Job

Shawn, a long time community member of Bissell Centre, used to live on the streets and struggled with an alcohol addiction.
Shawn got a job through our Casual Labour program last year with an ice manufacturing company in Edmonton.   Due to the physically demanding work environment many of our previous Casual Labour placements couldn’t handle the work.

Shawn persisted in working with them and so they hired him on full time.   He is now learning new skills and expanding his job duties (including driving a fork lift). The ice manufacturer has also helped Shawn find housing for a reasonable rent and they are also paying him a fair living wage at $23.00/hr!

This is why Bissell Centre exists:   to ensure everyone has equitable access to opportunities that will enable them to have dignity and achieve a sustainable livelihood, meet their own basic daily needs, feel hope for a prosperous future, and feel engaged in life.

And this is why we need your help: We are not fully funded by the Government, and therefore we rely on our generous community to support our programs so that we can help more people like Shawn.

Show your support for our work by making  a DONATION.   Or call 780.423.2285 or mail in a cheque to Bissell Centre 10527 96 Street, Edmonton, AB T5H 2H6.

Thank you so much for your support!

A Man I Met In The Drop-In – Part One

By Guest Blogger: Karen Lee
Meet Paul – a 52 year old man I met at Bissell Centre’s Drop-In.  Once upon a time Paul was financially comfortable.  He worked for nine years as a journeyman tinsmith making $34 an hour.   He had a place to live and didn’t have to worry about the next meal.   But all that changed when he got into an unfortunate accident at work in 2008, which left him with severely injured hands and an amputated finger.  After six major reconstructive surgeries over the past three years Paul still doesn’t have full usage of his hands, and today he is one of the many homeless people living in the inner city.

Paul blames the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) for his current situation.   Paul is currently receiving $648 a month from them for his accident, which he says will run out in July.  Understandably, he is angry and frustrated.  Paul has been working all of his life but now he isn’t able to afford a place to live.  For about a year Paul has been living on the streets and using inner city organizations like Bissell Centre to just get by on a daily basis.  At Bissell he relies on the Casual Labour Program to make some extra money.

Up until recently Paul was receiving $1,856 per month for the past three years until WCB told him he is ready to return to work.  According to Paul, he is unable to return to work as a tinsmith because he lost the dexterity he once had in his hands.  He estimates that he can only do a third of the work he once did.  He was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) about a year and half ago.

Paul is uncertain about his future.  He doesn’t know if he can recover from his PTSD.  Finding work has been difficult for him, he even tried training for other types of work through Bissell’s Employment Program, but his PTSD makes it challenging for him to remember the skills and information taught to him.

As my meeting with him concludes, I wonder how Paul’s story will end.   He told me he will continue to fight the WCB’s decision to cease his compensation.   I hope it works out for him.  Until then, he will continue his daily visits to Bissell to eat, do laundry, make phone calls, for emotional support and other necessities.

Find out more about Employment Services.

Here’s what you can do.

Homeless People Aren’t Lazy Bums

Guest Blogger:   Karen Lee, photojournalist
It’s a common stereotype: Homeless people are too lazy to work and live off of handouts from the government. Yes, there are people like that, but it’s rarely the case. It’s not often we hear about the people who actually want to make an honest living, and perhaps even change their lives.

There is often a long line of people at Bissell Centre’s Employment Services’ Casual Labour office. It’s so popular that they have a Bingo Ball system in place so that everyone gets a fair chance for the day’s jobs.   Jobs are in high demand. There are usually more people than jobs available. And they are more than willing to work for a lower-than-industry standard wage.  They are willing to travel an hour or more by transit to get to these jobs. They are prepared to sweat and get their hands dirty.

After spending a period of time with some of the workers, I have gained a new form of respect for the clients that apply to work in Casual Labour. The work they do isn’t easy.   These aren’t cushy office jobs. The available jobs are often physically laborious and repetitive. The work environment isn’t always pretty. One of the places I visited was a scrap metal yard. It was understandably dirty and muddy.   It was a brisk winter day, yet the workers

did not complain once or ask to go inside to warm up.    The work is tedious and tiresome, but they don’t seem to mind. It is evident that they are hardworking and dedicated. Mario, a worker in his 60s, was impressive. He could barely speak English and didn’t have the same energy or stamina as his co-worker in his 20s, but he did his best to earn his wage for the day.   And he does it with a smile.   I can tell he is grateful to have a job, even if it’s just temporary.

I also spent time at a lumber mill. Bissell Centre has partnered with this company for over 10 years and they have had quite a few success stories.   There are many great things about this company. One being that Bissell’s clients have the opportunity to train and work as permanent staff.   For the highly motivated and determined, this is life changing! With a permanent job, they can get better housing and not worry about their next meal. They can support themselves and their family.   They can have a sense of dignity and self-respect.  

There are lots of able-bodied, hardworking individuals in the Bissell community looking for work. Will you give them a chance?  Bissell Centre is always looking for employers to partner with  their Casual Labour program.   Please contact Employment Services at 780.424.4385.

Thanks Karen for volunteering your time and talent to Bissell Centre. It is only through working together that we will be able to fulfill our vision of eliminating poverty in our community.  

If you or anyone you know are interested in being a Guest Blogger on topics such as homelessness, poverty, unemployment, change, human services, food services, mental health, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or any other relevant topic, please feel free to contact Kristen Clark, Marketing & Communications Manager at kclark@bissellcentre.org.