The Street Outreach team met Bess and Ken near Confederation Park near the first of September. They came up to us asking for sleeping bags because they were sleeping outside. Since we were on the way back to the office anyhow, we asked them if they would like to come and we could help them. The tent they had was stolen the night before and for various reasons, they were having difficulty accessing resources. They were from southern Ontario and moved to Ottawa with hopes of finding work and an apartment. Before they left, we invited them to keep in touch.
The next week we met them on outreach again, and first saw Bess panhandling with a sign that said, “Need $ for a ticket to Owen Sound”. A quick glance around saw Ken across the street keeping an eye on her. We sat and chatted. The sleeping bags were working out great, they were both doing well and did not need any outreach items. We said goodbye and then went across the street and chatted with Ken. He mentioned that they were still having trouble finding a place because rent was much more expensive than they had anticipated. He told us that Bess had been pan handling with a sign asking for money for first and last month’s rent, but that it had not made very much money. He said that he was feeling guilty about the new sign because it is dishonest, but that it is making them much more money. We told him that the important thing was that the money was going to be spent on something positive, like an apartment. After a brief conversation we offered outreach items and then said goodbye.
We were well on our way back to the OIM office about ten minutes later when I heard someone calling for us. It was Bess and Ken. They were running to catch up with us. Bess handed me something and asked me to return it to Karen, one of our outreach workers. Opening the envelope we saw five twenty dollar bills. Bess explained that she had met Karen the night before on outreach. Karen returned the next day and gave Bess the money and a sandwich. Bess and Ken were feeling very guilty that Karen had given the money thinking that it was going towards a ticket to Owen Sound. Ken added that he felt that Karen might get discouraged if she found out that they had been lying on their sign.
We were speechless! We promised that we would return the money to Karen so that she could decide what to do with it. They seemed relieved. My fellow outreach worker told them “God will bless you for your honesty”. Ken replied “We already feel so blessed. He’s already blessed us so much.”
Bringing you up to date: Bess and Ken have become our friends. They have entrusted us with $1,000 to hold for them so they can pay their first and last month’s rent. Last Friday, September 16th, they got their place!! Now that they are set up, Ken is actively looking for work, and Bess is planning to finish her high school. She is sixteen.