“At Risk”

   

The term “at risk youth” is thrown around a lot, often without much thought or care. It’s a label that can feel very cold and dehumanizing.

But what are “at risk youth” really “at risk” of?

I think if we stopped and answered that question, we wouldn’t use the term so casually.

Because the truth is, right now, these youth are at risk of dying.

Drug addiction and overdose are not new to Ottawa, but the surge of overdoses over the past year is unprecedented. The youth I work with are more at risk of dying from an overdose than ever. So much so, that lately when a youth does not show up for our weekly art group, I get a knot in my stomach worrying they are the latest overdose victim.

It’s a really dark time.

But in the midst of this, the youth at Innercity Arts provide hope. Even in this darkness, they remain resilient and build each other up – like no other community I’ve ever seen.

I’m inspired by their strength. I’m humbled by their generosity. I’m thankful for their compassion.

I’m always amazed by the beautiful things they create. This year, they have created some incredible pieces of art and music and will showing it to the community.

I hope you can attend the show, and be witness to a truly hopeful thing in this dark time.

Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/131027517429263/ 

 

Kindness

A few months ago, a new person walked through the doors of the drop-in. He was friendly but seemed very cautious. He asked a lot of questions….as if he wasn’t sure if he could trust what we were up to. So I showed him around and tried to give him some answers. I offered him coffee and invited him to sit with some others who were playing cards. About an hour later, he came to find me again. His demeanor had completely changed – he looked happy and excited. “Did you see those women washing feet? I can’t believe that!” (He was referring to our foot care volunteers, who wash and care for the feet of our street friends.) He said he wasn’t used to seeing this level of kindness –just a few days before he had been released after spending several years in jail. Jail was rough, and kindness was rare. He said he couldn’t believe the kindness of the volunteers at the drop-in. The very next week, my new friend brought in 3 handmade dream catchers – one for me and one for each of the foot care volunteers. He said he wanted to extend kindness back to us. Since then, my new friend has attended drop-in every week. He always arrives with a smile and offers to lend a helping hand. dreamcatcher

Here is a photo of the dream catcher he made me. A reminder to me of how meaningful kindness can be.

 

Changing the Legacy of Youth Homelessness

How can we change the legacy of youth homelessness in Ottawa? This is a complicated question with an array of possible answers. Back in June, we partnered with A Way Home Ottawa and set up a table at Glowfair. We asked people to answer this question in just one sentence, and write it on a piece of cardboard. Tons of people made signs and pretty soon our table was surrounded by cardboard. People had all sorts of great suggestions: more affordable housing, advocacy, community outreach... But of all the signs, the one that stood out the most was a sign made by a little girl, who was probably around 7 years old. When asked how to help homeless youth she wrote: Love everyone. Every day. Every night. love everybody sign Yeah….I think that if we all took her suggestion the legacy of youth homelessness in this city would drastically change.     20160617_213139 20160617_213147  

Giving Their Time

A few weeks ago a handful of our youth participated in a fundraiser for Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat is a small northern Ontario community which has declared a state of emergency due to the large volume of suicide attempts from their population. Our youth felt the pull to show support for the youth in this small community. This was a wonderful event with beautiful traditional ceremonies and dances. The youth participated by creating live paintings for auction. With their work they were able to raise just under $600. I was so proud of them. They worked hard and produced some of the best work I have seen from them in just under 2 hours. Check out the incredible work they did below. 2016-06-22

Adulting101

Although I consider myself a fairly competent adult, sometimes the youth in the art group ask me questions that leave me stumped – and I feel like I need to go find a “real" grown-up to help. This happened a few weeks ago when Mark asked me about credit checks. While I knew a little about them, I brought in one of the volunteers (Doug: aka a “real” grown-up) into the conversation…just in case. Doug was able to answer with ease, which led Mark to ask more questions about banking, taxes etc.  You see, Mark had been homeless for years but he recently gained employment and moved into his first apartment – so now he’s trying to navigate adulthood. At the end of the conversation Mark admitted that he felt stupid for having to ask these questions. He said “I’ve been homeless since I was 13…..I should know this stuff.” My heart sank. Because of course it makes sense that he doesn’t know this stuff. While most youth have parents to transition them to adulthood, Mark’s been on his own for years. I reflected on this and thought that even at age 30 I have so many amazing people who I can call up when something about adulthood is confusing me. It would be awesome, I thought, if I could lend my people to Mark to help him navigate adulthood. And that’s basically what we decided to do. Together, Dana and I created a seminar called “Adulting101”. Any youth could attend to ask questions about living independently (taxes, banking etc…), and we would try our best to answer. We also brought in some experts to help: a career coach, a financial adviser, an entrepreneur and a few other highly successful adults. The results of this night were amazing. There were tons of questions like: “If I get a job, how does a boss pay me?”, “What if I’ve never filed taxes before?” and “How do I start my own business?”. It was an incredibly simple night – no structure, no complicated programming. Just young people eager to ask questions and adults willing to listen and offer guidance. Simple but so effective.

Terrarium Workshop

Last night was a busy night at art group! We were busy making terrariums! The youth loved choosing their plants and trinkets to make their own unique terrarium.

We were so blessed to have Virginia, a design expert from Bloomfields Flowers, lend us her expertise as well as 50 plants for this workshop!

Another thank you to Value Village on Clyde Ave. for providing glass jars and trinkets, and to Richmond Nursery for providing plants.

Check out some of the creations from last night!

collage

P4Y Auction: Sneak Peek!

     

The participants of the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program have been working hard to prepare for the upcoming auction.

Here's a sneak peek!

show 2015 collage  

To see more, or to purchase some amazing artwork, come check out the art auction on

Thursday June 18th from 4pm-8pm at the Canadian War Museum.

This is a free event!

Entry to the museum will be free from 4pm-8pm so feel free to explore the museum exhibits.

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Join the Facebook event HERE

Practicing t-shirt art

The kids are gearing up for a big art project in May using t-shirts. We got a bunch of ‘practice’ t-shirts in from Value Village for them to experiment with. They had lots of fun trying different techniques using spray paint, acrylic paints, bleach, stencils, etc.  We are in need of donated art supplies for this project. New T-shirts, spray paint, stencils, acrylic paints, paint markers. This project will be to raise money for the P4Y program at an upcoming event. We will be pinning 30 t-shirts together on a large board, and the kids will be creating a collaborate painting on the t-shirts as a whole. The t-shirts will then be auctioned off one-by-one as individual pieces of art.  We are so excited by this project. We look forward to revealing the finished product. t-shirt collage     Dana Cote, Youth Outreach Worker

In the News…

  On November 28th, the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program hosted "Critical Impressions", an art show showcasing pieces related to the youth's experiences with various social structures. Check out Christine Ackerly's piece from Centretown News here                    

New Perspective on Home

I attend St. Albans Anglican Church in downtown Ottawa. We are lucky to have space in the midst of both the Market, nearby Centretown, and Sandy Hill. We feel as though we are surrounded by busy city life, with event constantly taking place and people coming and going. It also means our church body lives with neighbours experiencing poverty and homelessness, in fact our church body, itself, has members who find themselves living in shelters or on the streets. It is a stark reality of urban life, and one our congregational is learning to navigate with sensitivity and compassion. It certainly helps that Centre 454, a social service, is located in the lower half of our church building. The folks who work and volunteer there are the same as those you would encounter at OIM--deeply caring and passionate people. Though we have the pleasure of housing Centre 454 and partnering with them in their ministry, it can be difficult to know how to incorporate our church's youth into this part of our life together. We have a small but energetic group and as leaders who see Jesus' strong dedication to social justice we know it is essential to be able to invite our young men, women and children into experiences that can foster understanding. As a staff member at OIM I knew about our One Homeless Night program, which invites youth to walk for a night in the shoes of one of their peers experiencing homelessness. Though our size did not lend itself to this activity we truly wanted our youth to experience the lessons and principles that this activity offer. We invited OIM's Youth Outreach Worker to join us for an evening of discussion, and walk of 'new perspective'. We traveled around our own neighbourhood, of Sandy Hill, in the rain, trying to see with new insight the individuals and stories of our very own street community. Some of the stories were difficult, and our youth struggled to understand, but more often than not they rose to the occasion with questions and concern. It was unbelievably valuable experience, and one we brought to a close by packing gifts for the Passion 4 Youth participants and, of course, prayer. It was imperative that we not only see and understand, but that we follow with action. I hope next year our numbers will grow, or that we might partner with other churches for a full overnight One Homeless Night event. For now, I am grateful that OIM, a place care for dearly, was able to bless my youth with a new perspective for their own homes, and to challenge them how they might invite inclusion and create spaces of safety and support for their neighbours.   Selina, OIM Staff If you're interested in organizing a One Homless Night event with your youth group or school visit our One Homeless Night page for more information.