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.
Yes, everyone needs clean underwear…especially those who are experiencing homelessness.
New underwear is one of the most requested items by people who use our services, but one of the least donated. People are often denied their requests for undergarments because we simply have none to give.
Women are especially likely to be denied since women’s underwear is less frequently donated than men’s. When possible, they are offered the alternative of wearing men’s underwear, an experience that, apart from being physically uncomfortable, causes embarrassment and a reduced sense of self-worth. Our #DropYourGonch campaign aims to fill this desperate need by stocking our Community Closet full of clean, fresh underwear for participants to use.
We all know that it’s important to change our underwear every day, but some of the reasons why may surprise you. Here is a list of five reasons why clean underwear is critical for a person’s physical and emotional well-being and why everyone needs clean underwear to be happy and healthy.
Not changing your underwear regularly causes microbes and other bacteria to accumulate and fester, often causing an embarrassing odour and an itchy rash on the skin. To maintain hygiene and cleanliness, fresh underwear is a non-negotiable essential.
Wearing the same underwear for an extended period of time can also have severe consequences for your personal health. The microbes and bacteria mentioned above can cause dangerous infections if they stay in contact with the skin for long periods of time, and the most serious of these can even lead to deadly conditions like kidney failure or bladder cancer. Clean underwear is more than a convenience; it is imperative to one’s health, and can even save lives!
We offer free shower services in our Community Space, meaning participants who come in can get soap, shampoo, a razor, and other personal hygiene items, enjoy a hot shower, and leave feeling squeaky clean. And what’s the best part about taking a shower? Slipping into that nice, clean, fresh pair of undies when you’re done, of course! Our objective is to be able to provide every participant who uses our shower services with a clean pair of underwear. With your help, we can offer every participant that “just-showered-and-slipped-into-a-fresh-pair-of-undies” feeling, lending at least one small comfort to the people who need it most.
The unpleasant odours and other adverse health effects caused by dirty undergarments can create something of a psychological barrier between the wearer and other people. Inevitably, the individual’s self-esteem and comfort in social interactions may suffer as a result. This impediment can be especially detrimental when it comes to significant interactions, like job interviews – situations that are already stressful enough without any added worries! A clean pair of undies allows the wearer the confidence they need to have successful relationships and social interactions.
A clean pair of underwear can go a long way toward restoring an individual’s sense of dignity. The emotional toll of having to wear the same set of dirty undergarments for days, weeks, or months on end can be debilitating. A clean pair of underwear is more than a physical necessity – it can provide the recipient with a rejuvenated sense of dignity and self-worth. What gift could be more meaningful?
It’s easy to take for granted something as always having clean undergarments to wear every day. But everyone needs clean underwear and deserves it. For many people lacking basic life necessities, something so small really can make all the difference.
Colourful regalia. Delicious food. Traditional performances. Laughter between friends. These were just a few of the sights and sounds to behold at Bissell Centre’s celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day on Friday, June 21, a day which also marks the summer solstice. The solstice is notable for providing the longest stretch of daylight of the year, which was fitting, as the 10 am to 1 pm celebrations saw a reprieve from the relentless stretch of rainy days. As members of our community gathered in the street together to honour the rich and diverse culture and contributions of the Canadian First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, the clouds parted and the sun made a welcome appearance on a day that Indigenous people have devoted to celebrating and rejoicing in our connection to the sun and the Earth for thousands of years.
But National Indigenous Peoples Day is about more than just celebration. It’s an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on the history of mistreatment and adversity that Indigenous people have faced in Canada for hundreds of years, ever since the endless miles of Canadian soil that had belonged solely to them from the beginning of time became inhabited by groups of people who did not share their beliefs or ways of life. The Canada we know today is a beautiful cultural tapestry, brightly woven with colourful threads from cultures, ethnicities and nationalities from all over the world, and we are known internationally as a country that will welcome those who need refuge or who seek a better life for their family with open arms. Even so, it’s important to acknowledge and reflect upon the fact that Canada became the nation it is today at great cost to Indigenous people and their storied heritage. And this history is far from ancient – the last Canadian residential school did not close its doors until 1996. For many Indigenous Canadians, the scars borne of decades of intergenerational trauma and the societal inequity that First Nations, Inuit and Metis people continue to face today often makes the healing process a long and difficult one.
While National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity for both celebration and reflection, it also offers the promise of community. As the sun rose to its highest point in the sky over Bissell Centre on Friday, it shone down upon traditional performances of drumming, singing, and dancing, Indigenous art forms that continue to be passed down from generation to generation as visceral representations of the beauty, passion and deep spirituality of Indigenous culture. It alighted down upon friends, families and loved ones of all different cultures sitting down to a delicious traditional meal of stew and bannock, sharing stories and laughter as they ate together. It cast its dazzling light upon a day meant not only to celebrate the countless contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples have made to Canada, but also for us as a wider community to show our solidarity with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and the adversity they continue to encounter every day.
Bissell Centre, founded in 1910, has always been an ally to the Indigenous community. In the days when Indigenous religious ceremonies and cultural practices were illegal in Canada, Bissell Centre provided a safe haven for Indigenous leaders to practice and keep their rich culture alive. We continue to strive today to be an organization where Indigenous traditions and practices are not merely accepted, but celebrated – not only on National Indigenous Peoples Day, but every day of the year.
Christmas of 2017 was a tough time for my family. Having welcomed our second daughter in September, we were at the pinnacle of sleep deprivation as our youngest went through her three-month sleep regression. As a breastfeeding mom, I would wake every 2-3 hours to feed her, and this went on for weeks. We were so tried that we were barely getting through the every-day chores, let alone getting ready for Christmas.
With Christmas looming and a two-year-old at home, I bought all my gifts online, but had absolutely no time to wrap them. I contemplated buying paper bags to shove the presents in and calling it a day. Then I heard about the partnership between Bissell Centre and Southgate Centre for their gift-wrapping service. Not only would I not have to wrap my own gifts, but I’d also get to spend some time having a coffee while the baby napped in her car seat. It was a no-brainer for me. I went the next day and thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet the wonderful volunteers from Bissell, who cheerfully took my gifts to wrap, labeled them and returned them to me in under an hour. I got to walk the mall, enjoying a hot coffee for the first time in weeks.
I was looking for help during the holidays, and I found out that I was helping others.
Any mom of young children can attest to just how hard it is to get a moment to themselves. Bringing my gifts for wrapping at Southgate gave me some time to myself at such a critical time in my postpartum journey. Most importantly, I was surprised and delighted to learn about the impact that Bissell Centre has on the community, including supporting struggling families and children through their Childcare program, parenting classes, clothing donations and more. In fact, Bissell Centre supports over 600 families across Edmonton each year. I was looking for help during the holidays, and I found out that I was helping others. What a gift!
It was such a pleasant experience that I will be bringing my gifts every year. Life is still busy with a toddler and preschooler running around and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to bringing my gifts to be wrapped by “Bissell Elves” at Southgate Mall. It has become a welcomed holiday tradition for us.
*Submitted and written by local mom and business owner, Jacquie DuVal.
Between November 23th and December 24th, for a minimum donation of $3, have your Christmas gifts wrapped at Southgate Centre by Bissell Elves. All proceeds go to support Bissell Centre’s Childcare meal program.
Being homeless is difficult enough when the weather is fair, but when temperatures drop, it becomes a matter of survival. The threat of serious illness, loss of fingers or toes, or even losing one’s life become serious concerns when temperatures nosedive.
These threats are particularly potent here in Edmonton, where winters are notoriously harsh and wind chills can be extreme.
Edmonton’s homeless are more likely than most to experience dangerous cold-related injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia. They have few spaces to retreat from the cold, nor can they afford proper winter clothing that will protect them from the elements.
We believe every person has the right to have basic human needs satisfied. Our Drop-in support services provides a safe, warm space for people to escape the elements, enjoy a hot meal and access to free, warm winter clothing through our Community Closet.
The winter is especially busy when we distribute jackets, sweaters, scarves, toques, mittens, boots to every person in need who visits.
Helping people take care of their basic needs is only the first, but a necessary step, in helping people access programs that will move them out of poverty.
This would not be possible without our community of supporters who donate time, funds, and resources.
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
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!
What started as a casual pastime has now become one of Edmonton’s most anticipated yearly clothing drives. From November 1st until Christmas Day, Jasmine and her husband Ryan will spend their evenings and weekends collecting donations of warm winter clothing for #BundleUpYEG, an annual project that Jasmine initiated in 2013.
“I had just finished one job and I was moving into another, and I had this two-week layover period where I had no work to do,” she explains. “I’m not someone who can just do nothing when I’m bored.”
That’s when inspiration struck. After seeing a news story about the need for winter clothing among Edmonton’s homeless population, Jasmine knew how she wanted to spend her free time. Reaching out to her large following on social media, she asked if anyone had unneeded coats, hats, scarves, mittens, or sweaters, which she offered to pick up and drop off at organizations in the community that help homeless people, like Bissell Centre. Jasmine’s instincts were right. People often want to donate but find it difficult or inconvenient. “Time is the biggest thing,”” she suggests. “The world moves very quickly these days; everyone has something to do and somewhere to be.”
But time is not the only obstacle to donating. As Jasmine explains, “You can get caught up on who to donate to and where to go, and that can be very daunting. We try to remove that step for people.” Making it easier for people to donate has been met with more success than Jasmine anticipated; she says that she has been amazed at the generosity of her community. “I think it’s a huge testament to Edmonton and the people who live here,” she says.
The need in our community for warm clothing over the harsh winter months is as urgent as ever. Approximately 2,300 people living in Edmonton are temporarily or chronically homeless, and for them, winter can be deadly without proper clothing. “People on the streets are susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia, and sickness due to overexposure,” says Nichelle Bryant, In-Kind Coordinator at Bissell Centre. “During the winter, we can easily see upwards of 500 people every day accessing our Drop-in Centre, with a high majority of them needing winter clothing to keep them safe and warm overnight.” For places like Bissell Centre, Jasmine’s #BundleUpYEG initiative can mean the difference between having to turn people away or being able to offer warm clothing all winter long.
To date, #BundleUpYEG has donated roughly 370 bags—over 4,000 individual items—of clothing to homeless shelters and supported organizations in the community. This will be the fourth year that Jasmine and Ryan will organize #BundleUpYEG, this time with the goal of collecting 130 bags of clothing. You can help Jasmine reach her goal by contacting her via email (email@example.com), on Twitter (@JasFranklin09), online at bundleupyeg.com, or by dropping your donations off at any of the following locations.
November 1st–December 2nd: 102.3 Now! Radio: Suite 102, 9894-42 Avenue
November 1st–mid-December: Blitz Conditioning: 10575 115 Street
November 25th–December 24th: Kingsway Mall, Giftwrapping Centre: 109 Street & Kingsway
Every year on June 21st, the summer solstice, Canada observes National Aboriginal Day in recognition of Aboriginal culture, honouring its vast richness and diversity. This year marks a special milestone as it is the twentieth anniversary of National Aboriginal Day.
The solstice was selected for this special day because of the significance that it holds for many Indigenous groups as the longest day of the year. Bissell Centre hosts annual celebrations on this day to honour our historic ties to the Aboriginal community and to promote its deep and beautiful culture.
“Aboriginal” is an umbrella term that includes the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples of Canada. A large proportion of the people who access Bissell’s services are of Aboriginal heritage because this population disproportionately struggles with homelessness and poverty. The causes of this phenomenon are complex and rooted in a history of systematic marginalization and discrimination.
Bissell Centre is a tireless advocate for Edmonton’s Aboriginal community, as it has been for many years. Celebrating Aboriginal culture at Bissell Centre is an important part of the work we do in support of the Indigenous community. It allows us to connect more deeply with our participants and offers them a space to celebrate their heritage.
This National Aboriginal Day, we are serving a special meal of stew and bannock at 10:00am, as well as running a number of activities in our Drop-in Centre, including:
Blessing and smudging led by an Elder at 9:30am.
Traditional drumming and dance at 11:00am.
Indigenous art in the afternoon.
We are excited for these activities and hope that our friends in the community can join us to celebrate.
From all of us at Bissell Centre, Happy National Aboriginal Day!
UPDATE: Because of your help, we collected 2,154 pairs of NEW underwear for the homeless folks in our community. That’s 1,154 above our initial goal of 1,000!
We are excited to host our 2nd Annual #DropYourGonch underwear campaign encouraging the public to donate NEW underwear for homeless people in Edmonton.
The campaign starts Monday, July 20th and wraps up with a main event on Saturday, July 25th at our Thrift Shoppe (8818-118th Avenue) from 10:00am – 4:00pm.
The goal of the campaign is to collect 1,000 pairs of NEW underwear to meet the need through to the end of summer.
Underwear is one of the most asked for clothing items by people in the inner-city community, but one of the least donated.
The campaign also promotes health and hygiene, while boosting self-esteem and confidence, which are crucial for people who are transitioning out of homelessness. People living on the streets may go months without a new pair of underwear, which creates discomfort and a lack of dignity as they struggle to get off the streets.
For more information about drop-off locations, how to donate online, and to learn more about the campaign, please visit our webpage.