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.

What It’s Like to Go Without Food

The constant struggle to get enough food takes a heavy toll. It wears on the body, mind and soul. Food is literally the fuel for life–when there isn’t enough, all areas of life are affected.

For many people, the impact wears on all three areas:

“The hardest part is all the walking. I am 7 months pregnant. My ankles are swollen and sore. I must walk around 5 miles a day to get to various places for food and shelter.”

“I don’t feel good enough because I can’t build energy. Your self-esteem goes so low and my self-confidence because I can’t provide food for my kids.”

“When the kids don’t have enough food, they get cranky. When they’re not fed properly, they get sick more often and have more health problems in general. They’re not as active. I really do think if affects attitude.”

These quotes come from people who have experienced hunger and struggle to find enough to eat. A few years back Bissell Centre released a report called “Living without Food,” which is as relevant today as it was when it was published. I encourage you to read it, to understand what it is like to go without what most of us take for advantaged.

What is Bissell Centre doing?

We provide a meal to 200 or more people per day in our drop-in centre, as well as bag lunches for the participants in our casual labour program, and meals within other programs like our Women’s group and Child Care Centre.

As well, Bissell is currently the lead agency in an interagency exploration around food security, funded by the City of Edmonton. The final report will be out in March or April. Out of it we hope to identify additional strategies to address hunger and food security.

See our program listing to understanding even more about how we are helping people move beyond poverty, hunger, and homelessness.