Reverend Al Tysick has spent countless hours on the streets of Victoria, helping the city’s most vulnerable.
“I think the most rewarding part is just sitting beside somebody on the sidewalk and listening to their story, and being one with them,” Rev. Al Tysick said.
Building connection and community for people who are often forgotten has been Rev. Al’s calling for the last 30 years.
“There’s really no one like him,” said Our Place Society CEO Julian Daly. “He’s really the embodiment of unconditional love. His work has made a huge difference because for many, he is the only person connecting with people living rough on our streets.”
Rev. Al helped build Our Place in 2007 and was its executive director before retiring a decade ago to launch the Dandelion Society to fill a gap in outreach services.
“He has been a life-line, literally, for those people,” Daly said. “He has changed lives, he has saved lives.”
But the hardest part for Rev. Al has been those he couldn’t save.
“All the funerals I’ve done, I’ve buried a small city,” he said. “This last year I found it very difficult — we were burying two to three a week.”
Now, at the age of 75, Rev. Al is retiring for good and he’s just grateful he could give back.
“They’ve made a difference in my life, they’ve taught me a lot — if you listen,” Rev. Al said. “I think that’s one of the greatest things. Listen and be present.”
For the people Rev. Al has helped, the early morning coffees and support have something that keeps them going.
“Sometimes we had a really bad day the day before and to wake up and to at least have a break in the morning, and we don’t have to go struggle,” Wallace Steves said. “I’ve seen the smiles on my friends’ faces and people that I don’t know when they come up and see him.”
“You don’t know one day from another how hard it is to survive and Rev. Al made a great difference,” Elaine Sparks added.
Rev. Al’s legacy will live on, with the Dandelion Society continuing as an Our Place street outreach program.
“At some point, you have to let things go and trust other people,” Rev. Al said.