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ATB’s Four Directions celebrates five years of supporting Edmonton’s underserved

Four Directions more than a bank for community members facing financial barriers

By Angelique Rodrigues 2 November 2021 3 min read

An image of Four Directions clients  enjoying an anniversary lunch hosted by Boyle Street and ATB

To cash your pay cheque, you need a bank account. To open a bank account, you need photo identification. To obtain that identification, you need, well, identification. It’s a complex system, and while not impossible to navigate, it can be a real barrier to banking for Alberta’s underserved and vulnerable community members.

After years of struggling financially and searching for a steady gig, 24-year-old Drayton Germann found a job through Boyle Street Community Services’ social enterprise Hire Good. It was a huge win, and once he’d worked his first two weeks as an Overdose Prevention Attendant at Louise McKinney Park, he was pretty thrilled to pick up his paycheque.

But his wallet had been stolen, he didn’t have a copy of his birth certificate and he’d never had an Alberta Health Card or Social Insurance Number (SIN).

“Before I got the job, it was really stressful, because I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have any ID and my life was crumbling,” said Germann. “And then even after I got the job, figuring out CRA stuff or even trying to open a new bank account, it was really hard.”

Fortunately, Hire Good connected him with Four Directions, a financial institution run by Boyle Street and empowered by ATB Financial. They helped Germann get the documents he needed to file for a second piece of ID, cash his cheque and remove the hold on his account due to his lost bank cards.

Now, Germann has a direct deposit account, a sense of pride every time he checks his balance on pay day and a plan for the future.

“Right now I’m saving my money. I’m going to save up as much as I can and then at the end of December, when my lease is up, I’d like to rent my own apartment and that way I can feel more independent,” he said.

More than a bank

ATB Financial and Boyle Street Community Services opened Four Directions Financial in 2016 as a way to remove banking barriers for the city’s vulnerable. Community members, like Germann, can open accounts or cash cheques using biometric identification technology and access resources to learn about building their savings.

When someone new comes in, the cross-trained staff help them in every way they can. They ask them about their housing needs, mental health or addiction issues and offer cultural support. And if they can’t help, they refer each person to the organization that can.

“It’s more than a bank; we are truly interested in who they are and how they are. We connect them to wider resources in our community—like the City of Edmonton and Alberta Health Services,” said Four Directions' Financial Manager Margaret Archibald. “By using that approach, it allows us to assist clients in becoming full members of the wider community.”

Celebrating five years in the community

It’s been five years since Four Directions opened its doors beside Boyle Street Community Services. They’ve helped thousands of community members gain access to financial services, open bank accounts, obtain identification, grow their savings, learn to invest—usually all for the first time.

To mark the occasion, ATB partnered with Boyle Street to host a free anniversary luncheon on October 26, and donated winter wear to the community members who attended.

“The anniversary celebration was an opportunity to thank everyone who has supported Four Directions and to acknowledge the success of these community members,” said Chett Matchett, Associate Vice President of Strategy, Operations, and Social Economics, ATB.

“Four Directions has made a tremendous impact in the community, with leading technology and a flexible, client-first approach. It really makes banking work for people instead of them trying to meet the requirements of a rigid system.”

Germann sees the positive impact Four Directions, and Hire Good, are making in the community every day.

“I feel like for the community it’s reassuring for them, it’s comforting and makes them feel that they’re not alone and there is help out there,” said Germann. “I feel less alone because they exist.”

For more information on how you can support Boyle Street Community Services, visit https://www.boylestreet.org/getinvolved.

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