Chancellor's Community Recognition Award
Fall 2006 Convocation
Rev. Al Tysick is the spiritual leader of the Open Door, an inner city ministry in Victoria serving an estimated 600 people whom Tysick refers to as his “family.” Beginning in 1987 as an outreach program operating from an old Sunday School Room at the former First Metropolitan United Church, the Open Door recently broke ground for a new facility to replace the aging Pandora Street ministry, thanks to grants totaling $10 million from the federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as generous donations from individuals and businesses in the community. Expected to open by September 2007, Tysick’s long-time dream will provide 45 transitional rooms, meal service for residents and the homeless, a drop-in centre, and transitional services.
Tysick was born into poverty himself, the only son of five children living in a low-income Ottawa neighborhood and raised on welfare by his mother. At age 13 he found his calling to the ministry while walking home on a snowy Christmas Eve when he witnessed a Salvation Army officer stepping over a drunk on the street without stopping. That drunk was Tysick’s father, a Second World War veteran who returned from overseas addicted to alcohol. Among his feelings of embarrassment, hate and fear, Tysick realized the church should be doing better.
With his mother’s encouragement, Tysick earned a science degree and worked as an electrical engineer with the National Research Council before studying theology at McGill University. Tysick started his street ministry career near Ottawa, where he opened his first drop-in centre and helped build 38 houses.
Tysick usually arrives at the Open Door by 5 a.m., often seven days a week, and does outreach work every Friday. He often works 14-hour shifts. The former Victoria Citizen of the Year has become a voice for some of the city’s most vulnerable. In recognition of his boundless empathy and tireless commitment to Victoria’s poor and homeless, this summer Time Magazine included Tysick in its list of Canada’s Heroes.
Tysick lives in Sooke with his wife, Mary, and two of their three children. His eldest son also works full-time at the Open Door.