Leaders in Transformation; Patrick Nixon

Patrick Nixon is a leader in delivering compassionate and transformative programs for the poor and the homeless. He has been well recognized and honored for his outstanding leadership in poverty alleviation across Canada. In 2001 he was named Calgary’s Citizen of the year, in 2005 he became a member of the Order of Canada, in 2007 he received the Alberta Order of Excellence and most recently, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.  His dramatic life-path to this esteemed position could not have been more arduous.

Pat was born into a troubled Vancouver home in 1960 and after a painful childhood of abuse and abandonment, he moved to Calgary.  He was only 15 years old, and alone. Panhandling on the streets of Calgary, he was befriended by four compassionate men from First Baptist Church. Refusing to give him money and send him on his way, they instead bought Pat a meal. One of the men, Rod Derry, took Pat into his home to live for a year.  After, slipping back into his old ways, he ended up in a provincial jail for armed robbery.  Two years later he returned to Calgary and reconnected with Lise, a young girl he had fallen in love with during his year living with Rod, and they were married in 1979.  He was also compelled to reach out to First Baptist Church and the church not only welcomed him, but they recognized his leadership aptitude and compassion, and asked him to start a homeless ministry in the church. In 1984, this fledgling ministry officially became the Mustard Seed Street Ministry and with a staff of 12, they served emergency meals and provided shelter to 50 people a day.  The Mustard Seed grew steadily under Pat’s visionary leadership, eventually offering transformational emergency care, training, job search services and transitional and affordable housing. It also offered life-changing opportunities for volunteering.  By 2006 the mission was utilizing 11,000 volunteers to serve 365,000 people.

During that period of miraculous growth many individuals and companies passionately supported The Mustard Seed, including Legacy Kitchens, where I serve as CEO.  Pat and I became friends over the years and more recently, very close friends through a difficult transitional period.

In 2010 Pat left the Mustard Seed and in 2011 took on the CEO role of T.H.E. StreetLevel Network, an organization that he and a number of other Canadian leaders began some years ago. StreetLevel is a movement of compassionate doers driven to action by their belief that poverty and homelessness can, and must be solved. It is made up of dedicated leaders who, compelled by their Christian faith, and through the various Canadian organizations they represent, are working cooperatively to address the systemic, sociological, economic, cultural and spiritual deficits that contribute to poverty and homelessness across the country. This national network is open to anyone who is interested in these issues, regardless of faith or current involvement in matters of justice.

One of the most important tasks that StreetLevel is taking on is to tell the stories of people affected by poverty issues and transformed through the work of poverty alleviation organizations they connected with.  Over the next number of weeks this blog will present a number of these short inspiring videos. The first features Pat Nixon and Tim Huff co-founders of StreetLevel addressing the issue of poverty and homelessness in Canada.