City & Politics

Boyle Street Community Services: You’ve been Occupied

 It’s 9 a.m. Sunday. While most Edmontonians are snoozing or firing up Assassin’s Creed III, volunteers across the city are out in full force, helping those less fortunate than themselves.

One such remarkable organisation is Boyle Street Community Services, providing people living in poverty with the same things everybody needs: somewhere to live, someone to talk to and something to do (not bacon strips and bacon strips, as EMT would have you believe). Occupy Edmonton spent the day making soup for the folk at Boyle Street. Here’s how it went.

“Welcome to Hell’s kitchen,” jokes Troy, Boyle Street’s lively full-time volunteer chef. Above him is a photo of Gordon Ramsay, that choleric cult figure we hate to love. Ramsay’s uncharacteristically serene smile beams down at the chaos below – the kitchen is packed with ten volunteers frantically peeling potatoes, preparing to feed over a hundred hungry citizens. Normally, Troy does this Herculean task mostly alone. But today is different – today, the kitchen at Boyle Street is Occupied.

In an event organised by Occupy Edmonton, volunteers flood the kitchen, bringing with them food generously donated by the community, Occupy members, and by Youth Empowerment & Support Services. When asked about their goal, media spokesperson for Occupy, Terry Noel, had this to say:

“We believe in a solidarity not charity model, which means that our struggle is not defined by how much those at the top give to those at the bottom, but rather by how much those from different backgrounds can work together despite them, with the understanding that we all need to support each other if we want to see change.”

Most of us have no cooking experience, but we know how to use a knife. There are no recipes to follow, only three big pots and enough ingredients to fill them. Somehow, it all comes together – through teamwork, mad knife skills, and Troy (who had been stealthily making sure things go smoothly while humming Flo-Rida tunes).

“I used to be out there.” Troy motions to the hall where hundreds of Edmontonians wait for lunch. “Now I’m in here every day. They love my food, and I love cooking.”

Boyle Street Community Services is open fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, keeping the community warm, happy and full of tasty noms. As the temperature drops from “freaking freezing” to “pretty sure Hell just froze over”, they need warm things more than you need bacon, so get down to Boyle Street with a buttload of toques as soon as you can.

November 2012 is Housing Month in Edmonton, shining a light on the groups and organisation promoting affordable housing in the community. See for more details.


Erin Headon has been reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since ’87 and writing trash since Y2K. Follow her at: @TackleItHeadOn