King Thunderbird

Boyle Street Community Services’ new building will offer more space, an outdoor courtyard and greater Indigenous cultural education and support

Boyle Street Community Services has supported people experiencing homelessness and poverty since 1971. It’s an organization with a strong track record of breaking the cycles of poverty, but the building it operates out of, in downtown Edmonton, is crumbling.

“Boyle Street has been an important part of the community for over 50 years now. During that time, their most visible presence is their facility on 105 Avenue,” says Carman McNary, former board chair of Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) and Circle Keeper for the Build with Boyle capital campaign.

The 33,000-square-foot building was not purpose-built and requires significant repairs and renovations. It has flooded five times over the last six years and the building is inaccessible for many people with mobility issues.

A $10 million gift from the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation seeded Boyle Street Community Services’ capital campaign to raise money for a new facility. Several other community partners have come on board to support the project, including the Stollery Charitable Foundation, Capital Power and Station Lands (a partnership between Qualico and Ledcor), among others.

To date, Boyle Street Community Services has raised $22.57 million – 79 per cent of its goal. While this is a significant milestone, there are long-term needs, such as building maintenance and operations, that will need to be met once the new building is complete.

Together, Boyle Street and ECF are developing an endowment plan that will provide reliable funding to help support the upkeep of the new facility in perpetuity.

“Often, capital campaigns don’t take into account the long-term needs of the infrastructure being built,” says Matt Mandrusiak, donor advisor at ECF. “The endowment provides peace of mind to support ongoing needs of the infrastructure.”

ECF is also showing its support of Boyle Street’s new building by matching up to $100,000 in eligible gifts made to Boyle Street’s endowments, allowing donors and supporters to further leverage their generosity and grow their impact.

With the capital campaign and endowment working in tandem, Boyle Street is ensuring that this ambitious project will find success in the short- and long-term.

The new facility, which will be just two blocks north of the existing site, will have 75,000 square feet of indoor space and outdoor courtyards where people can gather. It will also offer more Indigenous cultural education and support.

Cliff Cardinal, a teacher and elder from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, has been providing Indigenous guidance and teachings. He says he was moved to support the project when he was approached by Boyle Street’s executive director, Jordan Reiniger, for help.

“Boyle Street gives our people their dignity back,” says Cardinal. He says Boyle Street serves as an important cultural connection for people who may have moved from the reserve and lost their way.

Cardinal has most recently been working with Boyle Street on cultural and traditional lessons around medicine picking. Medicine like sage, sweetgrass and cedar are picked and used as smudge for Indigenous ceremonies.

“[Boyle street leadership] came to me while we were in ceremony and asked me to guide the process and speak on behalf of the organization to the spirit world,” says Cardinal. “I assisted and guided through a traditional lens in the process. Everything was guided by ceremony.”

Cardinal says his main advice was that they should not focus on doing more, but on doing better.

He believes that because the process has been guided by ceremony, the Creator is answering prayers and the new space will be an important place to continue the healing needed in Indigenous communities.


Boyle Street will keep its existing facility open during the construction phase of the new building to ensure that there are no gaps in services for the downtown community.

The organization is working to set up the new site while respecting Indigenous protocol. This means doing things in what Indigenous communities call “a good way.”

Cardinal also says that he has been working with the architect to make sure there are natural elements incorporated into the designs, as well as giving the centre an appropriate Indigenous name.

“We held a sweat lodge ceremony on September 30 at our new building,” says Cardinal. They invited supporters and architects to the sweat.

“We named the new centre the King Thunderbird Centre.”

This article comes from the Winter 2022 edition of Legacy in Action. Read the full issue.