Jordan Reiniger is a natural connector. As the executive director of Boyle Street Community Services, he spends much of his time finding opportunities to work together with people and organizations who have the shared goal of breaking the cycle of poverty in Edmonton.
“I think the foundation of our work at Boyle Street is partnership and relationships. You can’t have good things moving forward over the long term without having effective relationships,” he says. “They’re the foundation of everything we do.”
Over the past eight years (the last three as executive director), Reiniger has focused on strengthening connections between Edmonton’s social sector, business community, neighbourhood organizations and political world to address the challenges of homelessness and poverty.
“These are big challenges and we only are able to address them by working together and having different kinds of perspectives and voices at the table,” he says.
Reiniger’s collaborative approach is working. In 2021, Boyle Street Community Services helped 530 individuals experiencing homelessness to find and secure housing. In addition, the organization served more than 82,000 meals, and its street outreach team made 4,835 contacts with Edmontonians in need. Reiniger credits much of this success to two actions he undertakes regularly: listening and consulting with staff and community members.
“I listen to elders and knowledge keepers that keep me on track and help me to see ways forward that I wouldn’t have seen on my own,” he says. “And I just think our staff are this incredibly talented, dedicated group of people who are inspirational on their own, but have incredible things to teach me about the work and about how we can be better in the community. Usually my decision making is much better when I listen to those voices.”
During his time as executive director, Reiniger has spearheaded several major initiatives at Boyle Street Community Services, including the creation of Four Directions Financial — a custom-built financial institution developed with ATB Financial to answer the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness. His team worked directly with ATB Financial to ensure managers across the province received training to better meet the needs of vulnerable community members.
But, a partnership with the Edmonton Oilers for the construction of a new Boyle Street Community Centre (the King Thunderbird Centre) hit a major roadblock in late November. Reiniger confirmed that the City’s Subdivision Appeal Board (SAB) nixed the development permit for the project. But, he pledged that the project won’t be killed by the setback.
What he’s most proud of is the day-to-day work of Boyle Street’s 650 staff.
“If all you do is focus on the big things, you lose sight of the important work, which is the relationship you have with people,” he says. “I think the thing I’m most proud of is just being part of a team who’s doing that work and is pushing every day to make sure that the lives of those who are most at risk in our society are able to move towards the kind of life where they can thrive.”
Ultimately, Reiniger knows that no community is built alone.
“There’s no single person that is a great community builder. You can’t build community unless you’re in relationship with a lot of other people,” he says.