2022 Fall Newsletter

Your Generosity Helps Prevent Homelessness

When inflation is high, we all feel the pinch. For many of us, rising costs mean buying more no-name products, driving less or eating more meals at home. But for families living in poverty, today’s record high inflation can bring them one missed bill or rent payment away from homelessness. Your support makes a difference.

Your generosity helps prevent homelessness by supporting our Community Bridge program, a rapid response intervention to help stop an eviction, utility disconnection or foreclosure before it happens.

Bissell Centre Support Workers coach clients in creating a realistic budget and financial action plan. They help negotiate with landlords and utility companies and assist in applying for government benefits and grants. Some households may also be eligible to access a no-interest loan for rental, mortgage, or utility arrears or receive help finding housing that better fits their budget.

Our Community Bridge Program is a vital part of our vision to eliminate poverty in Edmonton. Thank you for making it possible.

Did you know?
Last year, our Community Bridge program provided 201 loans totaling $276,713.75 for utility and rental arrears for 476 people in Edmonton. In 2022 we’re on track to more than double our support to families thanks to caring people like you.

Supporters like you helped Bill get a fresh start

My name is Bill and Bissell Centre gave me a second chance at life. Bissell does amazing work helping Edmontonians like me when life kicks us down. When Covid-19 first hit, the restaurant I worked at closed without warning. I could no longer afford my rent. I had to give up my apartment and move into a rooming house. That’s when someone told me about Bissell Centre.

That first visit to warm up and get a bite to eat changed my life. Bissell staff helped me find new work immediately. But then I was hit with another blow: the rooming house I called home burned down. Everything I owned was now dust. I was scared, lonely, sad and angry all at once and for the second time in a year, I was homeless. This time, thankfully, I knew where to turn for help.

Bissell staff gave me a warm meal and connected me with temporary lodging. Through their Community Bridge program, I found an apartment of my own. I now work full-time at Bissell’s Community Space. It’s so rewarding to work in the same place I once turned to for support. I don’t know where I would be without Bissell Centre, and I am glad I never had to find out.

I don’t know where I would be without Bissell Centre.

A look inside our Community Space

It’s Friday afternoon and John is setting up his chess board at in Bissell Centre’s Community Space. Over the next two hours he will host a drop-in chess program for anyone who’d like to learn to play. It’s John’s way of giving back for the support and friendship he’s found at Bissell over the years.

“I started coming to Bissell about ten years ago,” recalls John. “The staff were so friendly, and I quickly became a regular, dropping in about five or six times a week.

“When Sarah approached me a few months ago to see if I’d like to volunteer to teach a chess class once a week I said yes right away,” explains John. “It’s a pleasure to be able to pass on my knowledge and get other people interested. It gives me a sense of camaraderie and achievement.”

From chess to check-ups your support is changing lives

Bissell Centre offers more than access to food, showers, and laundry to eliminate poverty in our community. Here are just a few of the many community development programs and services you make possible at our Community Space.

Nursing Station

Sofia, our on-site Registered Nurse, provides inclusive health services for people experiencing homelessness including responding to overdoses, wound care, urgent care, referrals and more.

Financial Connect

Financial Empowerment is essential to improving the lives of low-income and unhoused people. Our services include financial literacy education, income support services and access to Community Bridge for support and funding to prevent loss of housing.

Mental Health Supports

Our Mental Health Support Worker, Myles, works with individuals who have mental health concerns, and often concurrent addictions issues, to address daily living goals.

Art, games and a wide range of leisure activities

Whether it’s creating art with our artist-in-residence or learning to play chess with John, participants find a welcoming environment, snacks and a safe space to relax and refresh.

Giving families a chance to thrive

My name’s Malika and I’ve been a child educator since 1989. I really love my work here at Bissell’s Child Care Centre. The children we serve have many different needs, including challenges with speech and behaviour. Many are on the autism spectrum. Needing extra help is normal here so parents don’t need to feel bad. We are all here to support each other and make sure kids and parents get what they need.

As an educator, I love seeing the happiness in mom or dad’s eyes when they hear reports of their child’s progress. It’s amazing to see them have hope at the end of the tunnel and to not feel so alone.

Recently there was a mom who had been coming to us for childcare for about a year. I could see from her body language that she was uncomfortable and nervous about opening up to us about her concerns for her son.

It took us a full year to get her to confide in us so we could support her in completing a developmental screening tool that would assess her son’s developmental progress, but we succeeded.

Evidence shows that the earlier development is assessed the greater the chance a child has to reach their full potential. Now that we know where her son needs a little extra help, we are better able to support him and his family. If there’s one thing I’ve seen over and over it’s that when you’re helping a child, you’re helping their whole family.

Meet a long-time volunteer who’s making a difference

Bissell Centre would not be able to do our best work towards eliminating poverty without the support of incredible volunteers like Saroj Saher, who started volunteering with Bissell over 30 years ago.

“In the early 1990s Bissell Centre was very simple with fewer services and programs,” recalls Saroj, who has served in many volunteer roles over the years, including spearheading the annual New Year’s Day Dinner, a role she continues to this day.

Volunteer work is a matter of both duty and passion for Saroj. “I believe that I am better off financially and have more privileges, so why can’t I share?” explains Saroj. “If you do a kind gesture, it’s contagious. You can give 1 dollar, a quarter, someone will see you giving, and it continues.”

So, what would Saroj tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with Bissell? “I would say go ahead, go, go! Don’t be scared. That experience, you will never forget.”

Volunteering is a great way to get closer to the transformational programs you make possible at Bissell Centre. To see a list of current opportunities, visit: https://bissellcentre.org/volunteer

If you do a kind gesture, it’s contagious.”

Join Us!

From volunteering to collecting toys to hosting your own fundraiser, read how you can get involved this Holiday season: https://bissellcentre.org/helpy-holidays/

Registration for our annual Coldest Night of the Year Walkathon happening Saturday February 25, 2023 is now open! https://cnoy.org/location/edmontondowntown