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A Message from the CEO

Dear Friends,

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who showed their support to Bissell Centre over the spring season. Because of you, hundreds of adults and families received basic needs, housing and financial support, nutritious meals, and more.

To ensure people had safe and consistent access to our programs, many of our teams have been running from Tipinawaw since November 2020. 

There have been 92,503 check-ins for day services, 149,288 meals served, and 490 unique individuals engaged in housing conversations. This is a very small snapshot of the work you have been supporting during the pandemic.

Words can’t express just how grateful we are for generous folks like you! Thank you for showing up to support people who are especially vulnerable despite how turbulent these times have been for everyone.

Gratefully,

Gary St Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre

A Voice For The Voiceless

Vanessa knew she had to make major life changes as soon as she saw two pink lines appear on a plastic pregnancy test. Today, three years later, you probably wouldn’t recognize the same woman, who spent years battling addiction and living rough on Edmonton’s streets. 

“It was such a scary time for me. You never know where you’re going to set up camp or how long you’ll be able to stay there. And I always worried about someone stealing my stuff. Not having a home is very stressful,” Vanessa recalls. 

But everything changed when she found out she was pregnant—she had to get help for the sake of her child. With no time to waste, she applied for a recovery treatment program that very same day.

Not only did Vanessa reclaim her life, she also vowed to help others like her wherever she could. Today, she’s advocating for people facing homelessness and addiction by working in harm reduction at Tipinawaw, a temporary accommodation space during the pandemic located in the Edmonton Convention Centre. She is also serving on the City of Edmonton Safety and Well-being Task Force. 

“It’s a whole new world and I am out of my comfort zone, for sure,” says Vanessa. “I think back and I am pretty amazed how far I have come. When you decide enough is enough, you really can see a difference in your life. It’s been challenging but also a learning experience in accepting my worth.” 

Vanessa is excited about learning how to be an advocate for those who don’t have the ability or means to speak for themselves. It’s hard work, but her newfound sense of purpose carries her through the tough times and with each life she touches, her confidence grows. She is a necessary and strong voice in the harm reduction community because she knows first-hand the benefits of such support.

“If you are experiencing homelessness or addiction, that is not the end for you. If I can do it, you can do it,” says Vanessa. “I thought I was a lost cause, and now I am working on these committees. It’s pretty incredible how things can change.” 

Of course, going to work to care for others during the pandemic wouldn’t be possible without affordable child care. Fortunately, Bissell’s Child Care Centre was considered an essential service, so her young son was able to stay under the care of those he has grown close to.

“I am so lucky to have a space for my son to go while I work and run errands to provide for my family,” Vanessa says. “I can’t say thank you enough! I’m so grateful I could bring him back to his friends and the wonderful staff at the Child Care Centre.”

Having access to flexible child care is essential for every family, but it’s life-changing for single moms like Vanessa. And your generosity is vital in keeping our doors open for families in need. You helped her forge a new path in life, and we’re so very grateful. 

Starting 2021 Off Right

Thank you to everyone who supported our fourth annual Coldest Night of the Year event. Your support proved that when people come together to affect change—great things happen! 

This year, 282 supporters walked in various locations around the province raising $128,317 to help fund our Community Space. Inside our Community Space, Edmontonians experiencing homelessness, hardship, and hunger can access opportunities and resources to heal and grow, which are critical to building a better future. 

You blew the original goal of $80,000 out of the park, ensuring even more adults and families get the support they need to thrive! 

Thank you for believing that the elimination of poverty in our city is possible and for partnering with us to move the mission forward. Together, we can achieve great things! 

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We are also blown away by what our incredible housing teams have been able to do throughout this pandemic.

In March alone, 51 people were housed. That’s 51 adults and children who are now safe, secure, and have hope for better days ahead. This is a remarkable achievement! 

This work is more critical than ever—housing IS the solution to homelessness. 

With your support, our housing teams are able to work with individuals and families to find affordable housing, relocate them when their current situation is unhealthy, or move people to reunite. With your support, our teams work to prevent homelessness and connect with people living rough. Thank you for ensuring more people find hope and security!

Delivering Bags of Kindness: A Family Tradition

In 2015, Marcia Deputan, her sister Teresa Kiyawasew and their families decided they wanted to help people experiencing homelessness, who were living on the streets in the bitter cold. They collected 12 backpacks, filled them with useful items like mittens, toques, lotions, and toothpaste, and went to work hand-delivering their bags of kindness to people in need. A family tradition was born!

Each year since then, Marcia, Klayton, Jade and Dace Deputan, and Teresa, Boyd, Mitchell and Damon Kiyawasew have involved more people in their tradition. Their mum, Aggie Flett, and other friends, families, neighbours, and coworkers donate bags and items—increasing the number of people they help year after year.

In 2020, COVID-19 restrictions meant they couldn’t collect physical items, and hand-delivering bags was next to impossible. But that didn’t stop this family from helping others! They reached out to their network and asked for financial contributions, which would allow them to purchase much-needed items. Then, they contacted Bissell Centre to ask about the best way to distribute their goods. 

During record low temperatures in 2021, the family dropped off 100 bags filled with brand new scarves, toques, and wool socks. They also included hot paws, band-aids, granola bars, and 7-Eleven gift cards, all of which make a HUGE difference in keeping our community warm and safe. Their efforts are an uplifting reminder of the boundless kindness and compassion all across Edmonton.

Help Edmontonians Beat the Heat!

The snow is almost completely gone, and the sun is shining brighter with each passing day. Everyone is looking forward to the arrival of warmer days! But before summer swings into full gear, our teams are preparing to support people in time for the hottest days to arrive. Will you help us provide life-saving supplies this summer by giving online today?

You can make a difference for people who are homeless in Edmonton by donating today to help us distribute brimmed hats, water bottles, and protective sunscreen. Without these vital summer supplies, people spending summer on the streets are at an increased risk of sunstroke, dehydration, and extreme sunburn. 

We hope you’ll join us this summer in helping Edmontonians in need beat the heat. And don’t forget to look out for our Drop Your Gonch online underwear drive in July. Thank you for your outstanding support, helping individuals and families in our city move from poverty to prosperity.