Mark Holmgren

Mark Holmgren

May 4, 2015

'We tend to talk about poverty in terms of just numbers or money or poverty lines and forget what poverty really is," says Mark Holmgren, CEO of the inner city Bissell Centre.

"Poverty is the deprivation of being connected and being together in healthy ways and equitable ways," he said.

Founded in 1910, "the mission of the Bissell Centre is to end poverty in our community," Holmgren explained.

He wouldn't provide data on poverty, but said, "If you put every poor person in Canada in cities, they would take Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa and Winnipeg.

"They would fill those cities. To me, that's a much more powerful image than giving you the number."

In those four cities there would be a disproportionate share of aboriginal people, visible minorities, people of lower education, lots of single people, all the homeless, the sexually abused, folks with mental illnesses and addictions, he said.

"We might as well put all the 60,000 people who are in our prisons, 80 per cent of whom are not white."

The Bissell Centre, a multi-service agency, is best known for its drop-in centre which is open 24/7 in the winter and a thrift shop that funds the free clothing that the centre gives away.

It also offers a victim services program, a mental health program, a housing first project, a camp for low-income families as well as outreach workers on the street 24/7.