From the Factivist, Spring 2012
By Lindsey Graham, ESPC Board Member
The presence of Bissell Centre as a vital thread in Edmontons social safety net dates back to 1910. With the experience of over a century of helping Edmontonians, the Centre has served countless individuals and families in need of social supports.In 2005, construction began on Bissell Centre West, which now houses the Drop-In, adult programs, mental health support, employment programs, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services, and a housing program. Today, the Centre is guided by a vision to eliminate poverty in our community.
Bissell Centre has an acute awareness of what poverty means in the lives of those who access their services. Beyond the quantitative data, they weave the stories of people into their programming to provide program outcomes of empowerment, equity and justice. The core values of Bissell Centre reflect the collective capacity of the community. Their philosophy is one of hope for human potential and social justice; of trust in the power of community through relationships and inclusiveness; and of resourcefulness with strength and capacity.
The Provincial 10-year plan to end homelessness, Edmontons own plan to end homelessness, and Premier Redfords recent commitment to develop a poverty reduction strategy will be contingent on the operations and programming of local service providers. Bissell Centre serves as a link between these broader policy goals and on-the-ground service delivery. By collaborating with other service providers in Edmonton, they are working to put words and policies into action.
The programs delivered through Bissell Centre celebrate the diversity of the community and respect the challenges that community members face. They are reflective of the complexity of community issues and acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works.
To achieve the goal to eliminate poverty, they focus on five service areas: core services, health & wellness, financial stability, safe & affordable housing, and learning & development. The following summary of programs provides a snapshot of the extensive suite of services offered:
Child and Family Resources include accredited childcare, family support services, parenting classes, advocacy and referral services, and essential care items such as infant formula.
Employment Services to assist participants looking to re-enter the workforce or enhance their job skills and readiness through training and assessments and connecting them with casual labour opportunities.Essential Community Support Services provides non-judgmental supports and advocacy to participants who may have chronic physical or mental illnesses, are living in poverty, are homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless, and have little or no support systems.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services enhances the communitys capacity to understand and prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and support the individuals and families affected by FASD through advocacy and community education campaigns.
Homeless to Homes aligns with the Housing First approach championed in the Provincial plan to end homelessness. Using an Intensive Case Management approach, barriers are eased so that individuals are able to access permanent and secure housing with wraparound supports tailored to their needs.
Inner City Victim Services provides non-police based access to programs and services to victims of crime to reduce the difficulties of navigating the criminal justice system. This may include court support, case management, crisis intervention and additional social supports.
The Centre also offers recreational activities and outings to help people form and strengthen social networks, learn new skills and enjoy life in healthy ways. Programming includes a broad range of activities, including individual and team sports, visits to cultural events and facilities, and outdoor pursuits.
The Bissell Thrift Shoppe is a social enterprise of Bissell Centre providing low-income families and individuals a venue for purchasing high-quality products at very affordable prices. All products sold at the Thrift Shoppe are generously donated by the citizens of Edmonton and surrounding communities and all revenue goes back to Bissell to fund the Community Closet. The Closet is a voucher-based system assisting low income families and individuals by providing basic essentials of clothing and household goods at no charge every season.