Boyle Street Ambassadors

The vision that we are working towards at Boyle Street Community Services is to see that all people grow healthier through involvement in strong, accepting and respectful communities.  Achieving this vision takes time, compassion, and most importantly, amazing people.  Every day our halls are filled with resilient clients and dedicated staff, but an often-unsung star in our community is the Boyle Street Ambassador.  Our Ambassadors are people who care for our city’s most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and want to do something to make a difference in their lives.


We would like to take this opportunity to say a resounding THANK YOU to all of our wonderful Ambassadors for everything they do.


Ambassadors make an impact in a wide spectrum of ways.  Some make a physical presence in the Community Centre.  Others act as influencers in their own circles, speaking about the work done through Boyle Street or advocating on behalf of our clients.  The acts and involvement of our Ambassadors are as varied and unique as the people themselves.


At Boyle Street, we are realists and do not shy away from recognizing some of the grittier facts of life.  Well, the reality is that despite the tenacity and success achieved by our community, our clients will always face barriers to inclusion until long-term systemic change occurs.  I call our Ambassadors stars because truly it is through their initiative of educating themselves about the complexities of poverty, and then spreading that knowledge throughout their own networks that a widespread change of hearts and minds transpires.  Teamed with our Ambassadors we are addressing societal bias, filling education gaps, and challenging social norms.


This blog is a love letter to all of our Ambassadors. 


Our gratitude and appreciation for their contribution are great, and with a standing ovation, we recognize them for the tremendous impact they make on our entire community.


With the greatest admiration, we at Boyle Street Community Services sincerely say thank you.


Though we wish to individually recognize every single Ambassador, we have chosen to feature a few stand out Ambassador engagements that took place throughout this past year:


Oxford Properties and the Holiday Gift Wrappers

Edmonton Islamic Academy & Prince Charles School Partnership

Ashlynn Quilty

Wayne and Pam Schafer

Nvenn Hair and Beauty Bar

Impact Session Participants

McClure United Church Women’s Group

RE/MAX Elite “The Face of Resilience Gala”

Ride for Refuge

The Nook Café and Urban Tavern

Arcadia Bar

The Grizzlar Coffee and Records

MacEwan University Nursing Students

CSL Student Community Cook Book

EllisDon Golf Tournament


If you would like to become a Boyle Street Ambassador or know someone who fits this description, sign up to receive “The Ambassador Insider”, our bi-monthly newsletter. Through our newsletter and other e-blasts, you will be provided with material and information to make you well informed about the challenges and opportunities faced by our vulnerable and marginalized neighbours.  This is also how you can find out about unique engagement opportunities and exclusive Ambassador events.

Addressing Substance Use with Compassion and Collaborative Support

Detox and addiction treatment is an important piece of the wrap around service that Boyle Street Community Services employ when working with a client struggling with substance use.  Like many of our systems, however, gaining accessing to these programs can be extremely difficult; exponentially so if you are experiencing poverty or homelessness.

The Mobile Outreach Addictions Team (MOAT) is a dedicated and hard-working team made up of Paul, Ethyl and Nick.

One of six MOAT teams across the province, MOAT’s mandate is:

 To assist and support clients who wish to access information about, and/or participation in addictions detox and treatment programs.

They also provide harm reduction informed addiction management strategies to clients.  Each of the team members fulfills this mandate with compassion and collaborate support, drawing on their experiences and expertise.

Part of MOAT’s success with engaging individuals in the inner city is their mobile component.

By mobile component, we mean that workers can physically meet people where they are at, engaging with individuals in various locations around Edmonton, as well as other hard-to-reach areas such as the river valley and parkland.

Mobile component also refers to the team’s patience and flexibility in being there for people no matter where they are at in their journey with substance use.  They accept and support their clients in the good days, and the challenging ones – this is where you really see MOAT live the Boyle Street value of “we never give up, even if the challenge is tough, seemingly impossible.”

 “We never give up, even if the challenge is tough, seemingly impossible.”

Some of the specific supports MOAT helps clients to connect with are:

  • Detox: typically, a seven-day process where a person can safely experience substance withdrawal symptoms in a supervised environment.
  • Treatment: either out-patience or in-house programs lasting between 18 to 90 days, primarily working on a person’s psychological state and wellness.
  • Sober Living: whether this be in a sober living housing (a one-year lease), or on ones own, this stage of rehab is a person’s transition back into society.

If you have between $12,000 – $36,000 a month to spend, you can enjoy one of Canada’s seven Luxury Rehab centers to go through the whole process.  However, a MOAT client who relies on government programs knows a radically different reality.

Once a client makes the decision that they want to go through treatment, Paul, Nick or Ethyl work with the client to support them in applying to a residential treatment program. The average wait time for a bed in treatment is 6-8 weeks.

Upon entering treatment, individuals must be sober for the 7 days prior.  This means accessing detox for many folks before their treatment dates.

There are only 2 detox facilities in Edmonton  –  the George Spady Society and Alberta Health Service’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission with roughly only 60 available beds between the two sites.  17 beds specifically set aside for men, and only 6 beds specifically reserved for women.  Priority at both detox centers is given to clients who have an approved treatment start date.

But now, timing is crucial. 

The best-case scenario is that the MOAT staff can orchestrate a seamless transition from detox directly to treatment.  If this is not possible because of bed availability, the client is placed in a disadvantaged, even life-threatening situation.

If a client has gone through detox, but has to wait for their residential treatment intake date:

  1. Many folks have no option but to return to the same environment they were in previous to detox. With our community, this often time means going back to living on the streets.
  2. If they relapse while waiting, they no longer qualify for treatment. They then have to reapply, wait another 4 to 12 weeks, and try again.

A serious risk to some clients following detox is that since detox lowers a person’s tolerance to substances, if a person does relapses and consumes the same amount/strength of substance as they did before detox, they risk an overdose, and potentially death.

Sober living is the final and ongoing stage of the “rehab” process.  Some clients opt for finding residence in a sober living facility.  However, the limited number of sober living facilities and long wait times makes this difficult to secure when directly leaving treatment.

Without question, timing is vastly important for a client looking to address their substance-use.

Ethyl, one of the MOAT workers explains, “ When you want to quit, you have to do it right then when you are in that motivated mindset,” still another factor of why the average 6-8 week wait for treatment means most people don’t even make it to their treatment date.

A lot can change in a client’s situation in that time; a change in health, a change of location, a change of responsibility, a change of heart…whatever the case, once a detox intake is missed, you are reset to the back of the line, and must start the process from the beginning.

When formal treatment can not be realized, MOAT continues to work along side clients to make sure their basic needs are met, to educate about harm reduction strategies, and to continue building community support.

When Ethyl and Nick were asked, “What is the biggest barrier that prohibits clients from making it to detox and treatment?”, both quickly and matter-of-factly reply, “ Being homeless”.

The lack of stability in a person’s life when they are experiencing homelessness makes it incredibly difficult to be able to focus their attention on working through their addictions.  When you are working on securing housing, figuring out where you will get your next meal, and doing the multitude of things a person struggling with homelessness must do, addressing your addictions tend not to take priority.  In fact, it might be the only thing that helps you get through each day.

“Can you imagine having to stay sober and have nowhere to go?” – Ethyl

Homelessness also makes communication a big challenge.  When a client does not have a permanent address and does not own a cell phone, it is extremely difficult to keep in contact.

Ethyl describes how she spends a large portion of her time trying to keep clients occupied as they wait for detox.  Reflecting on how hard it is for clients to stay positive with such a difficult path ahead, she says being up-front and honest is the only policy.

“Sugar-coating does not help anything.  I tell my clients that they don’t have to prove anything to me.  They know that it will be hard, and that they have to put in the work, but I will be with them every step of the way, and I will never give up on them.  Never.  No matter what.”

In addition to their case load, MOAT facilitates biweekly harm reduction workshops at the George Spady Detox Centre. They also work at the the Boyle McCauley Health Centre’s needle exchange once a week, and staff the Streetwork’s Needle Exchange Outreach van on Tuesday evenings.  Paul and Nick have also found themselves making semi-regular visits to Edmonton’s Remand Centre connecting with people who are about to be released on bail.

There is a common misconception that people struggling with substance use have the option, yet refuse to go through detox and treatment.  The reality is that people are bravely asking for help, willing to put in the work, but deterred by the multitude of barriers, all preventing them from being successful in completing treatment.

In commenting that there is no shortage of people asking for help, Nick simply states, I don’t have to sell anything.

MOAT is a fascinating and uniquely dense approach to harm reduction, one that the team’s members handle with an extraordinary degree of commitment and passion.

Each member of the team brings a unique method of working that is exemplary in articulating the programs fluidity and measures of success. The diversity of each team member’s approach and life experience compliment and strengthen the work as a whole.

Becoming embedded in this program and seeing the genuine concern and care given by the MOAT staff was a reminder that Paul, Ethyl and Nick’s priority of a relationship-based approach to their work is the key in finding success with clients facing so many layers of complex challenges.


If you are interested in learning more about the Mobile Outreach Addictions Team and the positive impact that the program is having on their clients and the city, we invite you to our next Boyle Street Ambassador Impact Session on MOAT on Monday, November, 26th from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

Impact Sessions give Edmontonians an opportunity to learn more about one of our programs by speaking directly to those that deliver the service on a daily basis.  Register today!

Harm Reduction Support Worker (Supervised Consumption Services)

JOB TITLE: Harm Reduction Support Worker (Supervised Consumption Services)
REPORTS TO: SCS Director in collaboration with the Streetworks/GSS Program manager
HOURLY WAGE: $18.33– $21.57/hour
LOCATION: Boyle Street Community Services/George Spady Society
HOURS: Casual (Potential for P/T, F/T) Available working days, evenings, nights and weekends


Job Purpose:

Streetworks is a Harm Reduction, health promotion, primary health care program, which is currently seeking Harm Reduction Support Workers (HRSW) to support, educate and help ensure the safety of individuals presenting to the Supervised Consumption Services to self-inject brought-in substances. With the support of a Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurses and an Addiction Counsellor/Social Worker, the HRSW works to deliver harm reduction supplies, education and support on safer drug use and injection techniques, take home naloxone distribution, sexual health and provides referrals to other health & social services.

*Streetworks Supervised Consumption Services are offered at Boyle Street Community Services and the George Spady Society.


  • Maintains a quiet, relaxed, safe space within the SCS and orients individuals to the service.
  • Seeks out opportunities to provide peer-to-peer counselling and referrals.
  • Provides education and counselling using a harm reduction approach on safer substance use, sexual health and other high-risk behaviors.
  • Advises SCS nursing staff of any SCS individual’s health concerns, either observed or voiced by the person.
  • Assists with overdose and other medical emergencies at the direction of the SCS nursing staff, including the administration of Naloxone and rescue breathing as required.
  • Provides overdose prevention education, encourages individuals to partake in take home naloxone (THN) training, completes THN training and distributes kits as required.
  • Provides an ongoing commitment to individuals within the SCS and continuously strives for the most effective and appropriate delivery of care.


Skills, Abilities and Attitudes:

  • Able to work non-judgmentally with all individuals presenting to the Supervised Consumption Services. within a Harm Reduction framework
  • Knowledge, experience or willingness to learn of substance use and culture, mental health, STIs and blood borne pathogens and inner-city lifestyles
  • Demonstrated interpersonal and organizational skills
  • Ability to work in an Indigenous cultural context
  • Familiarity with local community resources (e.g. substance use, social services, justice)
  • Ability to work in a multidisciplinary team setting
  • Ability to work in partnership with other organizations
  • Flexibility, creativity, enthusiastic and a willingness to learn


  • Experience working in a marginalized city community is an asset

Boyle Street Community Services is an equal opportunity employer. We value the diversity of the communities we serve, and are committed to engaging and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce. Boyle Street Community Services welcomes applications from First Nation, Inuit, Métis, New Canadian, differently-abled, and LGBTQ2S communities.

Those with a street history or intimate knowledge of the street are encouraged to apply. Successful candidates will be required to have a criminal record check and a child welfare information check.

To Apply:

Please email your resume and cover letter to: . Please include HRSW-Boyle Street in the subject line of the email. In the cover letter please state how you heard about this position and what shifts you prefer to work.

Closing Date: Open until successful candidate found

Street Outreach

What do you do…

  • if you are located in south Edmonton, and your struggle with mental health and addictions have lead you to living on the streets?
  • if you have lost your west-end home after an injury has prevented you from working?
  • if you are a youth who has left an abusive household, and you are finding yourself on your own for the first time in your life?

Without family or peer support, you feel you have no other options but to live outside.  You do not own a vehicle.  You can maybe afford transit, but you are scared to leave your belongings unattended.  You don’t know there are services available to you, and if you do, you may be unwilling to access them due to embarrassment, fear, or a lack of trust in the systems that have mistreated you time and time again.


What do you do? 

Are you another person to fall through the cracks?


Enter Boyle Street Community Services’

Street Outreach Program.


Street Outreach was created in 2011 and is one of Boyle Street’s several outreach programs.  Street Outreach consists of a team that goes out into the city with the purpose to connect with people who are living rough.

Living Rough:  living and sleeping outside year-round, either on the streets or in camps in the river valley and green-spaces around the city.

In pairs of two, these teams head out on foot at 7:00 am, five days a week, donned with backpacks full of basic supplies like water bottles, socks, granola bars, and harm reduction supplies.  In the winter, this would also include gloves and toques — Yes, I said winter — Street Outreach operates year-round in response to the shocking amount of people who live outside in the dangerous, below-freezing weather conditions during the winter months.


Street Outreach embodies themes that resonate through all of Boyle Street’s programs:


Meeting People Where They Are At

The Street Outreach teams will hike the river valley, bush-wack through green space, and pound the pavement to get to their clients.  Once acquainted with a person living rough, Street Outreach does not push an agenda, and there are no qualifications needed to be met before the team can offer support.

Since January of this year, Street Outreach has made 1,828 contacts with 194 unique participants (people whose full names and birth dates are known) and 1,166 more contacts with anonymous participants.  Dependent on the client, this could mean the team provides only a bottle of water and their contact information.  There are also clients who are in want of housing, legal support, and harm reduction supplies.  In each case, the Street Outreach team supports the client in accessing the services they need.  Often this means facilitating new relationships with other Boyle Street programs.  This year alone Street Outreach has made 346 referrals to housing, 286 referrals to medical services, and 201 referrals to income services.  The interconnected nature of Street Outreach is essential to best serve their clientele.


Building Meaningful Relationships

Street Outreach is in the business of long-term relationship building.  Ideally, Street Outreach connects each person living rough with support services that lead them to getting housed.  So far in 2018, 28 individuals have been housed.  However, housing is not always a client’s priority, as other barriers (most commonly insufficient income, physical health issues, and mental health issues) must be addressed before secure housing can be successful.

Every person moves at a different pace, and each individual’s unique life experiences create different barriers.  Where one person might have lost all trust in others due to a lifetime of abandonment, another might have lost all faith in themselves after failing to stay housed three times previously.  Every person needs different kinds of supports; the only way to know this is by building honest, meaningful relationships, and that is what Street Outreach does.  As with any trusting relationship, this takes time and patience.  Particularly with our clients, Street Outreach must also demonstrate commitment, consistency, and treating every person with respect and dignity.


Harm Reduction

A cornerstone to the functioning of every Boyle Street program is harm reduction, and Street Outreach is no exception.  Being able to provide clean harm reduction supplies is the first step in connecting clients with Street Works, Boyle Street’s needle exchange, STI prevention, and overdose prevention program.

For clients who are living rough and struggle with addictions, harm reduction supplies help prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.  Providing educational resources regarding STIs and overdose prevention keeps our clients as safe and healthy as possible while involved in a high-risk living situation.  Harm reduction can also include providing a person with access to clean clothing or transportation to attend an appointment.  Each step towards a healthier and safer life is celebrated and seen as a success.


The Street Outreach team must be tenacious, as they face an ever-changing work environment. 

Maintaining relationships with clients can be difficult when a team can go from connecting with a handful of new clients, to finding that a known camp has been abandoned or forcibly torn down.

Most days are spent building new relationships with clients, but due to a surge in need, the Street Outreach teams are increasingly shouldering the responsibility of supporting clients through accessing and navigating services.  To accommodate this need, Street Outreach has worked hard to cultivate relationships with the City of Edmonton, the City’s Park Rangers, and utilizing Boyle Street’s relationship with Edmonton Police Services.


Street Outreach sees the people who the general public have grown accustomed to looking past.


Many Edmontonians are neighbours with our clients, literally living side by side, yet not realizing they are there.  Street Outreach challenges the idea of what homelessness looks like.  People living rough come from a diverse background of life experiences: professionals, intellectuals, trades people, etc.


Street Outreach is an ongoing program that exists to facilitate long-term positive changes to those who otherwise would not have access to support or services.  It is unique, relevant, important, and another service Boyle Street offers to empower people to break down the barriers attributing to homelessness.




There is no better way to understand the gravity of this amazing program and the resiliency of the clients until you hear a first hand account.  The following is just one of the hundreds of lives touch by Street Outreach:


Ashley is a 31-year-old woman who has been known to Street Outreach for several years, although throughout those years contact has been sporadic at best. As a young woman living primarily by herself, moving her camp from place to place throughout Edmonton’s river valley, Ashley lived a life focused on surviving day to day, and Street Outreach struggled to form a meaningful relationship with her. At two separate times, she was referred to a housing program, though the housing workers were unable to make contact and each time Ashley’s case was dismissed.

In the late winter of 2018, Street Outreach came across a small camp in a gulley in a ravine. The weather was frequently bouncing between warm and cold, with constant thawing and freezing, and this created incredibly treacherous conditions in the ravine. When Street Outreach approached the tent, they came across Ashley, camped by herself. It had been more than a year since any Outreach worker had seen or spoken with her. They learned that Ashley had been living in Fort McMurray, where she had begun receiving AISH and had, after years outside, moved into an apartment. She had come to Edmonton again temporarily, intending to stay only for a day or two, but was left behind by her partner and later robbed of all belongings and identification.

Ashley was struggling greatly with the uncertainty of her situation, yet continuing, as she always had, to survive throughout it. She expressed that she wished to go back to Fort McMurray but did not know how to do so without any money or ID. She could only remember the first name of her AISH worker. Jane from Outreach was able to Google search the number to the Fort McMurray AISH office on her phone, which was instantly answered (rarely logistically possible in Edmonton) and the AISH worker’s full name and phone number provided. Joy, the AISH worker, also answered instantly, again a new and rare experience for Outreach! Joy spoke directly with Ashley, who, although emotional, explained her situation again. After speaking with Ashley, Joy told Jane that she would see what she could do and be back in touch shortly. In the meantime, Jane and Damien went to buy some breakfast for Ashley.

Barely fifteen minutes later, Joy called back to say that she had purchased a bus ticket back to Fort McMurray for Ashley for 1:30pm the same day. One of Ashley’s concerns had been being able to even board a bus without any form of ID – a barrier the general public so rarely has to think about. Joy provided a confirmation number and a “password” that Ashley could use to board the bus. Shocked at how quickly things had come together, Jane and Damien rushed back to Ashley. When she heard the news, she began packing her few belongings into bags. Having a few hours before the bus would leave, Jane and Damien helped Ashley take her bags of empty bottles to the depot so she would have some cash on hand, took her to the Mustard Seed Personal Assistance Centre for a change of clean clothes and hygiene items, and stopped to get her a bagged lunch to have on the long bus ride.

As the morning went on, Ashley began opening up more, laughing and telling stories. At one point she took out her keys and exclaimed with pride, “See? I do have my own place!” Eventually Jane and Damien brought Ashley to the bus depot. Once Ashley had her ticket in hand, she turned to the Outreach workers, looked both of them in the eye, shook their hands and thanked them before they left.

After such inconsistent contact previously, the joy and reward of being able to spend the full morning with Ashley was not lost on Jane and Damien. To be able to collaborate so efficiently with other professionals, and for Ashley, in such an uncertain and frightening situation, to put her trust in the workers to help her return home, was outreach and relationship at its finest.

Building A Life Worth Living


Where do youth in Edmonton that face significant mental health concerns turn for support when acute health services can not provide a long-term resolution?  This is the question tackled by Alberta Health Services and Boyle Street Community Services three years ago, after a call-to-action from Alberta Families, to break the reliance on emergency services, and to address the lack of community safety nets available to youth struggling with mental health.

To address this, AHS partnered with Boyle Street Community Services, forming a team of health clinicians and community outreach workers, to develop a unique program now known as the Youth Community Support Program (YCSP).


The YCSP mission?

Provide an empowering, collaborative, and community-based program centred around youth and their families who have frequently accessed mental and physical health services without experiencing functional improvement.


Quite simply YCSP is a referral program that provides community-based services to the most medically vulnerable youth all of whom have engaged in self-harm repeatedly. Filling that void however, was no easy task. They were required to design a program unprecedented in Alberta.


“We were trying to come up with a model that had never been done before”

 said Rebecca Taylor, manager of YCSP’s outreach team, on the program’s development in early 2015.


Healthy and supportive relationships are essential for mental and physical wellness which is why encouraging and promoting relationships play a very important role at YCSP.  YCSP works not only with youth, but closely with their family members to establish and develop healthy relationships. These teams – referred to as Care Teams within YCSP – comprise of a family counsellor, occupational therapist, psychologist, and a psychiatrist provided by Alberta Health Services, and Boyle Street youth and family outreach workers. Youth and families identify and establish specific goals which are achieved with the help of their care team. Everyone involved is committed to realizing those unique goals.

Although every youth’s path to wellness is different, they all share a common goal at YCSP – to thrive in supportive communities. However, YCSP does not want to be their community, YCSP is there to provide the support and resources for youth to feel safe, included, empowered, and supported in their existing communities.

  • Positive identity development
  • goal setting
  • family counselling
  • youth outreach
  • psychosocial therapy
  • team building activities
  • relationship building
  • community inclusivity

are just a few of the resources provided to youth and families throughout the program.

Unlike some other programs, there is no time limit at YCSP. Participants receive ongoing care and support until they can safely and comfortably transition out of the program. When YCSP was originally developed, it was estimated a typical participant would need 3 to 9 months to graduate from the program however, the average time in a successful program is about 12 to 18 months.

Not only are they supporting youth, they are supporting everyone involved within the program. Parents, who are often under significant distress, are offered self-care wellness and parent peer support. Additionally, due to the traditionally high ‘burn-out’ rate of front-line staff in this field, YCSP staff encourage a strong focus on wellness in order to help cope with the highly emotional demands of their work. YCSP has encountered very little turnover since it’s inauguration.

“Everyone wants to be here” said Taylor,

“I can’t imagine any more rewarding work.”


Since it’s commencement in January of 2015, YCSP has been a success story.

Through support provided to youth, parents, and education providers, they have witnessed high school students struggling with mental health return to school safely, with their mental health needs addressed, and thrive in the classroom.

They have witnessed youth obtain jobs and live safely on their own, entirely independently.

Many participants are now active members of supportive communities and are working on healthy relationships with their family and peers.


YCSP is Provincial initiative with a sister site operating in Calgary with similar results.


If you are interested in learning more about YCSP and the positive impact that the program is having on their clients we invite you to our next Boyle Street Ambassador Impact Session on YCSP on June, 19th from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

Impact sessions give Edmontonians an opportunity to learn more about one of our programs by speaking directlty to those that deliver the service on a daily basis. For more information on YCSP please visit