Reverend Al retires after 35 years of working with Victoria’s street population

Rev. Al Tysick — just Reverend Al to most people — is retiring after a life spent helping those in need.

For 35 years, he has spent his days working with the poor and vulnerable in Victoria.

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“I’ve really enjoyed the street work,” the 75-year-old Sooke resident said Monday. “I think that’s been my calling from God from the beginning.”

Tysick moved to the city from Morrisburg, Ont., near Ottawa, where he did similar work, running a facility called the House of Lazarus.

For much of his time in Victoria, he was with the former Open Door social agency before moving to Our Place on Pandora Avenue.

Ten years ago, at the age of 65, Tysick left Our Place to form the Dandelion Society for those who were “left behind.” “There were so many of them on the street that just needed help.”

Tysick said that for some of the people the society helps, “it’s like a dandelion coming through a crack.” “Against all odds they do recover.”

Open Door CEO Julian Daly calls Tysick — known for handing out coffee and muffins early in the morning to people living outdoors — “one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever met.”

“He’s out there at four, five o’clock in the morning with true unconditional love, providing care and hope and basic needs in all weather and all conditions.”

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak called Tysick “a tireless advocate for those experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental illness.”

“He has been a key partner working alongside VicPD and many other partners to help the most vulnerable,” he said. “We wish him the very best on his well-earned retirement and thank him for his service to our community.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said Tysick will leave “big shoes to fill.”

“I can’t believe he’s actually, finally retiring,” she said. “Al is a guy who people trust. The city trusts him, the business community trusts him, people who are living outside trust him.

“That trust has gone a long way to really help people.”

With his retirement, the Dandelion Society is being taken over by Our Place. Tysick called it “a natural fit.”

“Our Place is a sanctuary for people who need somewhere to get off the street, while Dandelion helps those who are hidden away.”

His son, Jordan, already works at Our Place and will run the Dandelion Society from there.

“It’s a nice handing over of the flame to the next generation,” Daly said.

Tysick also has another son, Jerrod, and a daughter, Alicia.

He said the people he has reached out to for so long will always be on his mind, and that deciding to retire has been “an emotional roller coaster in many ways.”

“They’ve given me as much as I’ll ever give them,” Tysick said. “People keep on talking about what I’ve done, but boy, the street population has been good to me, and the City of Victoria has been very, very generous over the years.”

Daly said Tysick deserves all the accolades he gets.

“You could probably say he’s the most loved person in the street and homeless community in the city,” Daly said. “His contribution to folks on the street is incomparable.

“He’s lived his beliefs and his faith in a way I’ve never seen anyone do.”

As for retirement pursuits, Tysick said he will continue to make stained glass, one of his passions. His handiwork can be seen at Our Place, where all of the stained glass adorning the facility was created by him.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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