Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS) is well on its way to the fundraising goal for its new facility, and the organization said it’s been able to do it so far without any government funding.
BSCS, which services people facing poverty and homelessness in Edmonton, is working on a new building in the city’s core, in the area of 100 Street and 107A Avenue.
The purpose-built facility is meant to ensure the basic needs of Edmonton’s most vulnerable population are met.
At a news conference updating the status of the project Tuesday morning, BSCS said it has reached 75 per cent of its $28.5-million fundraising goal so far, without any government assistance.
“This has come as the result of the community really stepping up in huge ways, in donations from $10 to $10 million to make sure this vision we have at Boyle Street for our community members can become a reality,” said Jordan Reiniger, executive director of BSCS.
“This is a truly community-led, community-driven project and we’re so grateful for the incredible support that the community has had. Our experience at Boyle Street is that we make the call to the city of Edmonton to support the kind of work that we do, the city of Edmonton steps up and they’ve done that again.”
The new name for the facility was also announced on Tuesday. Elder Cliff Cardinal gifted the name to the facility during a sweat lodge ceremony held at the site on Sept. 30.
The Indigenous name given to the new Boyle Street Community Centre is okimaw peyesew kamik. In English, the Cree name translates to “King Thunderbird Centre.”
“This didn’t just happen. It was guided,” Cardinal said.
“I had the painstaking task of humbling myself and providing humility to the spirit world to ask for a grandfather to guide this new home. And during that time, one grandfather came — on the third round — one stepped up… the thunderbird came down and blessed us and took that initiative to guide us to protect this home for millennia to come.”
BSCS serves more than 12,000 people. According to the organization, there are about 2,900 people experiencing homelessness who are on the waitlist for housing in Edmonton. That number has more than doubles since March 2019, BSCS said.
There are about 1,200 people living outside on a daily basis.
Reiniger said the organization’s current building is inaccessible and “literally crumbling” so this new project couldn’t come at a better time.
“The building is in a state of disrepair and we need a solution,” he said.
“It’s about doing significantly better for the people that we serve with a beautiful state-of-the-art facility that’s purposely built to create better outcomes, but also a beautiful place — and I think it’s going to be one of the most beautiful buildings in our city — that shows that we care and that the people that we serve deserve that.”
The new facility is also seen as a step toward reconciliation, Reiniger said, with Indigenous people making up about 75 per cent of the community Boyle Street serves.
“We — and I’m speaking as a non-Indigenous person — have an obligation to come together to not just acknowledge reconciliation but take meaningful action, and this building is part of that meaningful action to do better for the people that we serve.”
Brian Vaasjo is the president and CEO of Capital Power, which donated $2 million toward the project.
“We’re honoured to support Boyle Street Community Services in their mission to end chronic homelessness in Edmonton,” Vaasjo said. “Their work to provide cultural, mental health and family supports is critical for many of our neighbours in the downtown core. The Capital Power team is immensely proud to help bring the Okimaw Peyesew Kamik facility to fruition.”
The Oilers Entertainment Group has also been heavily involved in the project, with a $10-million donation.
“The Boyle Street project also aligns with OEG’s vision of creating a safe and welcoming downtown for all citizens — all citizens of all background and even the most vulnerable,” OEG executive vice president Tim Shipton said.
“The services provided in the new facility will provide desperately needed support for those who need it the most and give opportunities for people to enhance and enrich lives – and in some cases, safe lives.”
BSCS is still looking to raise the remaining 25 per cent of the funds needed for the project. More information on the project and how people can donate is available on Boyle Street Community Services’ Build With Boyle website.