Located in shadows of some of Edmonton’s shiniest new real estate, the Boyle Street Community Services building sits in stark contrast.
At nearly 80 years old, the structure is showing more than typical wear and tear. It lacks important amenities crucial to serving the needs of Edmonton’s homeless communities, as many as 700 per day.
Millis has been using a walker since a workplace accident left him disabled several years ago. Though there is a wheelchair ramp located on the side of the building, there are no interior ramps at the bi-level building.
A wheelchair lift for the stairs to the basement has been broken for many years. This means every time Millis needs access to the cafeteria or banking services, he must wheel to the side or rear entrance with the help of staff.
Going to the basement is even more difficult, requiring someone to carry his walker down the stairs as he struggles to get himself down as well.
“It’s hard on staff, and it’s hard on the people,” Millis said. “You feel embarrassed asking somebody and when you do, there’s all kinds of life walking through these doors.”
He said he never knows when his next encounter could be a negative one.
“You feel uncomfortable when you have to do that.”
The team at Boyle Street Community Services is well aware of the shortfalls. In addition to the accessibility issues, they identified the need for showers to be installed and a major kitchen renovation in order to meet client needs.
“Dignity is important to us, and providing that to people [by having things like] showers in our building would help us fulfill that,” said Brent Guidinger, with Boyle Street Community Services.
“We’ve done a pretty good job doing patch work around the building, and doing what we can where we can,” Guidinger continued, adding many of their issues have come down to lack of resources.
Volunteers also notice the need for facility upgrades, especially when trying to prepare meals in the kitchen.
“It took 45 minutes to boil a pot of water,” said John Mattillo, who volunteered with his colleagues, “and it was frustrating because we were trying to feed 400 people.”
“I don’t know how they do it every day,” said Mattillo. “Not to have the ability to have a shower when you need one, I just can’t understand that and grasp that.”
Mattillo decided it was time for his organization to take action. REMAX Elite will be funding renovations partly through The Face of Resilience gala coming up on Sept. 28 at the Westin Hotel.
Over 225 Edmonton-area real estate agents are helping to plan and promote the event, which will feature a five-course meal and fashion show featuring clients from Boyle Street.
Though renovation estimates are in the millions to upgrade every need at the Boyle Street Community Services building, Mattillo said his team is hoping to to do fundraising well into the future to ensure the vital upgrades happen.