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A Message from the CEO

Dear Friends,

On behalf of everyone at Bissell Centre, I’d like to send a huge thank you out to our community of dedicated supporters.

The world has changed in the past few months. So much has changed here at Bissell Centre too, but our commitment to support people experiencing poverty and homelessness continues to guide everything we do.

Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, your steady commitment to people facing homelessness and poverty stayed strong. We can’t thank you enough for coming through for those hit hardest by this crisis.

Thank you for standing up for Edmontonians who need support right now. Your incredible compassion makes our city a better place to live for everyone.

Gratefully,

Gary St. Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre

From Facing Homelessness to Embracing Advocacy

To understand Vanessa’s story, you need to know that she’s a people-pleaser, and this quality has majorly impacted her life.

During her teenage years, she went to school in Valleyview. She started hanging out with a bad crowd. Young and vulnerable, Vanessa was anxious to please her new friends—that’s where the trouble started.

Through her friends, she was introduced to drugs. Before long, she found herself in hot water struggling with an addiction.

This continued for years until she left home for Edmonton, seeking a change of scenery and new career opportunities. Moving around a lot became her normal. But amidst all the changes, one thing stayed the same—addiction.

Addiction took centre-stage and she lost her apartment. Finding herself without a home in Edmonton was especially challenging during the harsh, biting cold winters.

For three years, Vanessa spent her nights in and out of the river valley of Edmonton. During this time, she was familiar with Bissell Centre, and stopped in more than once.

But one balmy day in July, everything changed. She had a hunch and went to a healthcare provider to take a pregnancy test. When she saw those two bright pink lines, she knew her life was about to change forever.

Incredibly, she was admitted into a recovery program only one week after learning she was pregnant.

“I put 110% into my recovery to do all the work I needed to do on myself,” says Vanessa. “I did a lot of work there, and I stayed sober.”

Today, Vanessa is the proud, loving mother of a 1-year-old baby boy—and she’s worked hard to maintain her sobriety. Her son sparks joy in everyone who meets him. He’s a happy little guy who’s all wide eyes and big, gummy smiles.

Vanessa loves her son, but there are times when being a single mother is exhausting.

When Vanessa heard about Bissell Centre’s child care program, she was reluctant to leave her son. But over time, she realized she couldn’t do everything alone.

“I don’t know what life would be like without Bissell Centre childcare. I don’t think I’d have a job,” she says. “I’m happy with the care my baby gets, and Fatima in childcare is awesome. I love her.”

Vanessa now works with people impacted by addiction. And as a frontline worker, COVID-19 has brought new challenges. It is one more layer of safety and scheduling she has to consider.

Thankfully, Bissell was invited to stay open to care for the children of essential workers. Vanessa feels blessed that she can continue to work, and her son is cared for by familiar and loving staff.

It’s your generosity that allows parents like Vanessa to get help when they need it. Thank you for your gifts—they strengthen our community and empower people to rise up out of poverty into a brighter future.

Caring for our Neighbours in 2020

This Easter was different due to COVID-19. But thanks to your help, people facing homelessness were able to make connections to friends, staff, and resources—at a distance! Thank you for reminding everyone that brighter days lay ahead. 

On February 22nd, we saw an incredible 290 people gather for the Coldest Night of the Year. This walk brings all kinds of people across our great community together for one common goal: supporting people experiencing homelessness in Edmonton. And thanks to compassionate and caring people like you, we raised a remarkable $102,503 for our Community Space. 

It’s only our third year participating in this national walk-a-thon, and it’s the second year in a row we’ve raised over $100,000. You have absolutely blown us away! We could not be more grateful for your gracious support, you’ve truly made magic happen this year. Events like these not only affect change, they strengthen our community, and we’re already dreaming of all the things we can achieve together next year!

A huge thank you goes out to our sponsors, the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, The Nook Cafe, LOVEPIZZA, A Cappella Catering, and Rocky Mountain Ice House. And a very special thank you to Humans of Edmonton Experience for another moving photo installation and to Cadence Elliott for taking this year’s photos. 

And last but not least, we want to recognize the 71 amazing volunteers who showed up to make this event possible. Thank you for all of your hard work.

You Rose Up to Support Vulnerable Edmontonians

When They Needed You The Most

Due to the concern of COVID-19 living on fabrics and other surfaces, Bissell Centre paused physical donations to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, volunteers, and participants. Though this precaution was necessary to limit community transmission and slow the spread of the virus, it didn’t erase the ever-present need for clothing. 

‪So we sent a plea out to our wonderful community for financial donations.‬ And at the beginning of April, you responded. We are beyond thankful that you rose up to provide clothing for people experiencing homelessness in our city during COVID-19. 

We asked you to help raise $10,000, so we could buy items our fellow community members greatly needed. You immediately stepped up and blew that goal out of the water by raising a remarkable grand total of $31,000! 

With these funds, we purchased specific and hard-to-come-by items as they were needed. Your generosity also allowed us to stock up on general items needed all year round like jeans, shirts, sweatpants, sweaters, socks, underwear and more! Thanks to your kindness, we no longer have to turn someone in desperate need of clean clothing away.

Bissell Centre and its partners help an average of 700 people at the Expo Centre each day. Your incredibly generous support ensures people can access clothing, meals, showers, and shelter—safely and with dignity.

To All of Edmonton…

We Can’t Thank You Enough

Today, we’d like to say a BIG “thank you” to all of Edmonton. 

When a global pandemic is dropped on your doorstep, all you can do is try to respond in the best way possible. Bissell Centre quickly considered the safety of our participants, volunteers, supporters and staff as we focused on finding a way to continue helping the most vulnerable members of our community. 

Your continued compassion and support is the only reason we could respond as quickly and effectively as we did. 

While people were making plans to stay home, you thought of everyone who didn’t have a home to stay in. Amid constant change and disruption to your routines, you provided stability for people who regularly live in an environment of uncertainty. 

Because of you, people experiencing homelessness can still find a warm place to stay and a friendly face who cares. Because of you, there is food, clothing, and essential services for those who need it most. Because of you, there is still hope. 

On behalf of everyone at Bissell Centre, thank you for coming together to continue being a beacon of kindness and generosity in our city. We appreciate you more than we can say.