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!
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.
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 [email protected].
– Story by Bissell Centre Drop-in Staff Member
A gentleman came into the drop-in about 8 weeks ago. He approached me and asked about several of our programs. Further discussion revealed he is a recovering alcoholic that had relapsed for the last four months and lost his home and job.
We met daily for three weeks when he decided to detox and head to AA to resume work with his sponsor. I encouraged him in this and provided bus tickets. Two more weeks passed and he regained his sobriety. He remained sober despite many stressors and I encouraged him daily with affirmations and active listening. Last week he told me he wanted to go try out for a job. I encouraged him and offered tickets to get him to the appointment.
He has good skills and believed this would assist him to get back into an apartment and off the street. He seemed to me to be a very motivated individual so I believed him about the interview. We role played and I tried to be as supportive as possible. Friday last week he came into the drop-in beaming. He was offered a job! It was very apparent how happy he was when he showed me his letter of offer for a very well paid position. I coached him around self confidence and gave some referrals for assistance with addictions when working.
He thanked me and asked about housing. I referred him to our Adult Support progam and instructed him as to what he needed to do to get funds for the first month’s rent and some start up funds for returning to work. Today I saw him and he showed me the copy of his lease. He moves in the 25th of January and starts his new job the 23rd. I am very happy for him. He told me he could not have done it without me. I told him I could not have done “it” were HE not so motivated and skilled and in the end it was he not me that “done it”. He promised to send a postcard to the Bissell from his first international posting. BRAVO!!!