Larissa’s Journey: My Changed Life

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening.

Larissa’s-Journey

You know, if it wasn’t for all the organizations who help youth in Ottawa, I would probably be under a bridge, dead.

Without the Innercity Arts program, I would not have the food I needed to survive. When I started at OIM, I only had enough money for one meal a week.

One time my aunt took me to a restaurant, and she bought me a meal. Since I wasn’t used to eating all that much, I took the rest of the meal home, and it was all I had for the last two weeks of the month. Really, I found out that steak doesn’t taste all that good on the second week. But that’s all I had.

OIM would supply me with two meals a week, plus some money to buy more food. Now I had food covered for four or five days.

Since starting in the program…

I have schizophrenia, right. If I don’t have a routine, or schedule that I can follow, I tend to go off my meds, I go buy drugs and drive away nice people out of my life.

I burn bridges.

When I go to the Innercity Arts program, it gives me direction, keeps me stable, and I always have a safe place to go. If there is a delay in my medication, I can always go to OIM and feel safe, comfortable and welcome. It is a safe environment and a very positive one.

OIM gave me hope that no matter what I do, I am going to be OK, as long as I keep at it. OIM taught me that. Before OIM I had no motivation. OIM gave me support, and continues to be a lifeline for my life.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares “My Christmas Wish.” Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words.

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: Early Years in Foster Care

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 fm, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening!Larissa’s Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares her “Early Years”. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

I would wait until my sister was asleep and then I would cry that I could go back to my mom and dad. I wanted to find out who my dad was, but I never did.

When I was 4 ½, I started to go to different homes in foster care. They finally found a home for my sister and me.  My sister and I were made to change our last names to a hyphenated one, because they were maybe going to adopt us, and they didn’t want anyone to know that we were foster kids. I lived there for 9 years.

They didn’t adopt us. My birth mom fought in court that we should not be adopted. The courts never agreed to allow us to be adopted.  When I left home, I was old enough to know what was going on, and I still wanted to go back home.  I felt so all alone.

My sister was with my at this foster home.  I don’t cook. I used to eat eggs and the eggshells too. It all went into the blender. Me and my sister would make concoctions and have an after school snack.

I went to 10 different foster homes after that, until I was 16. It was somebody else’s family, but you were lucky to be there, because it could be far worse. I must have been a really bad kid, because I never stayed at any place for any long time. One place my foster mom threw a knife at me and it stuck into the wall. I called the cops. I even lived in a group home near Spencerville. In that place other kids in the hoe would run away and get rides from truckers.

One home was way out in the country and we had homemade bread, butter, and we had to get wood from outside and bring it in to heat. Mice ran across my bed, and there were rats too. Crazy. I got really sick once and lay on the floor to cool my fever, and they wouldn’t take me to the hospital. I told my social worker but she didn’t do anything about it. Even though I was really sick when we talked, she didn’t do anything.

Some people that had us used us as if we were a trophy when we were in their home.  We’d get gifts to open in front of everyone, for show, then they would return the gifts to the store.

I went to so many different schools, lasted a month maybe. I only have my grade ten. The last school I was at, I lasted only two weeks. I can’t do school any more, I was hit by a bus and hurt my head really bad.  

When I was sixteen, someone from the group home dropped me off at a shelter in Ottawa.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares her “Early Years”. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

 

Showing Love Through Food

 

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 Each month, Terri drops off a home cooked meal for the youth of Innercity Arts. She always puts such love and care into her meals, making sure there are lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious desserts, and plenty of food for seconds and thirds! 

Terri has a heart for youth on the streets, partly because her own son struggles with mental health issues. This was particularly difficult during his teen years. So Terri really understand that youth on the streets need special love and care. 

 

Thank you Terri, for showing love through your delicious cooking!

If you are interested in cooking for the art program, please contact Bonnie at bonnie_oim@rogers.com, or visit  https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/3ly7z8 

 

New Home for Innercity Arts

You may remember that back in January, Innercity Arts had to leave our much loved art space. The room that had been our home for 3 years had to undergo a major renovation, so we packed up all of our art supplies in search of a new space.

We kept the program going by packing supplies into 4 Rubbermaid containers and running the program at various locations, such as the Ottawa School of Art, Centre 454 and St. Albans Anglican Church. We are so grateful for these partners who opened their doors for us. As always, the youth in the program showed their resilience and flexibility. They continued to attend the program at various locations and never complained.

We were so excited to tell the youth (after 8 months!) that we had found a new home for the art program at 391 Gladstone. Not only that, we were thrilled to show them a beautiful building where they can do all the art they have been missing – spray painting, carving, sewing, and all the messy art we have not been able to do in our temporary spaces. We also have space for a music room, where our musicians can jam and record music together!

It has been incredible to be in this space and already it feels like home. We are so excited to see what the coming years hold of the art program.

We invite you to come see the space at our open house – drop-in on October 16th from 6pm-8pm at 391 Gladstone Ave.

 

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When the Streets are Safer than Affordable Housing

Homelessness andAffordable Housing (2)“Honestly, sometimes it was easier living on the streets”

You may be surprised to learn that I have heard this been said many times. Today, it was said by Sarah – a young person in our art program.

Up until a couple of years ago, Sarah was living on the streets and things were rough. But that all changed when she discovered she was pregnant. She and her partner made the decision to raise their child. They searched for housing and eventually found something affordable with a landlord willing to rent to them.

Since then, both of them have changed their lives dramatically and they put their child first.  They are the thoughtful, dedicated and loving parents to a one year old. They are also working hard to complete their schooling, and both are involved with community advocacy.

But it did not take long for there to be issues with their apartment. Issues like it being unbearably cold in the winter, extremely hot in the summer, serious pest issues and much needed repairs, including water damage, being ignored by both the landlord and bylaw. The apartment does not feel safe and causes the new family endless stress. 

“Things are supposed to be easier when you get housing.” Sarah told me, looking completely worn out.

But the truth is – there may be “affordable” housing in Ottawa – but it is not always safe. So families like Sarah’s, who have no other option but to live in this housing, are victimized by landlords.

Sarah and her partner have been trying for months to find a better apartment. But their limited income, combined with prejudiced landlords who refuse to rent to them make it nearly impossible to find adequate housing. They need a break.

Until then, it is Sarah and her partner’s resilience and resourcefulness that make me confident that they will persevere. But I can’t help but feel angry at the system that keeps them victimized, even in housing.

The old couch in the art room

In the art room there was an old couch that we were going to throw away. It was stained and falling apart and we didn’t really need it anymore.

But we never got around to throwing it away so it just sat in the corner of the art room.

No one ever used the old couch, unless they were really upset and needed to speak privately with someone. Unintentionally, it became the place where youth would sit with volunteers and, sometimes, cry and pour their hearts out.

I can remember many conversations on that couch. Comforting many young people as they cried about something that was going on in their lives. Something that would often happen as I sat on the couch comforting a youth is that the other youth in the program, one by one, would come by the couch and offer a kind word, hug or smile to the youth who was upset. Sometimes they would say “I’ve been there man” or “I’m here for you” or they would offer the loving gesture of a cigarette.

That old couch, as dilapidated as it was, became a safe space where tears were shed, trust was built and people were loved.

-Moira, Staff

 

30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds Each Day, In Honour of Our 30th Anniversary

This story is part of A Special Series this month in honour of OIM’s 30th Anniversary. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. As you reflect on these stories, please take a moment to PRAY EACH DAY – just 30 seconds – for our ministry’s needs.

Thanks and God Bless.

 

 

He Came To Us

Jason was invited to Innercity Arts by a friend. He liked the opportunity to have a good meal and hang out with friends, but he had no interest in the staff and volunteers. It was very clear from the beginning that Jason did not trust us. He was very blunt with me, and said he wasn’t interested in speaking with the volunteers at all. I told him mutual respect was all that was required – no opening up and sharing was necessary.

We soon learned that Jason has a tumultuous home life, which led to a series of foster homes and group homes. He said that most adults reminded him of the staff he had to deal with growing up. So, we took it slow. We did not push Jason to open up, and mostly we just let him be.

One day, Jason arrived at the art group in crisis. He was crying over something that had happened and he said “I didn’t know what to do…I didn’t know who to talk to.” He came to us – and we sat with him and listened as he cried. He thanked us before leaving, and gave us a hug.

-Moira, Staff

 

30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds Each Day, In Honour of Our 30th Anniversary

This story is part of A Special Series this month in honour of OIM’s 30th Anniversary. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. As you reflect on these stories, please take a moment to PRAY EACH DAY – just 30 seconds – for our ministry’s needs.

Thanks and God Bless You.

 

 

It’s sometimes easier to love than to feel loved

participants of the Innercity Arts Program - Ottawa Innercity MinistriesOur main goal at Innercity Arts is to make every youth feel loved. We don’t want the youth to just feel accepted or respected or tolerated. No….we want them to feel loved.

And they are easy people to love. They are funny, creative, talented, thoughtful….and so many other things. But I think it can be easy to love someone but sometimes it’s harder to feel loved. Especially if you’ve felt unloved for a long time. So my hope is always that the youth know we love them.

One night after our art program, one of the youth wrote this on her Facebook page: “I am always completely blown away by how much the Ottawa Innercity Ministries cares for its kids in their art program. We are a family, and they know that, and they don’t just treat us as a family, they treat us as their own family. The care these people put into the program for us is outstanding.”

Reading this meant so much to me. It meant that this young person felt loved by us.

-Moira, Staff

 

30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds Each Day, In Honour of Our 30th Anniversary

This story is part of A Special Series this month in honour of OIM’s 30th Anniversary. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. As you reflect on these stories, please take a moment to PRAY EACH DAY – just 30 seconds, in fact – for our ministry’s needs, including a permanent location for our Innercity Arts Program for Youth.

Thanks and God Bless You.

 

 

30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds a Day, Celebrating 30 Years of Service

We invite you to join staff and volunteers this month as we pray for the ministry needs of OIM. Invite your family, friends & Church to take just 30 seconds a day to pray. 

We encourage you to follow us each day on the blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter as we share the real-life stories of people from the streets. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. As you reflect on these stories, please take a moment to PRAY EACH DAY – just 30 seconds, in fact – for our ministry’s needs,

Click on the image link below and listen as our Executive Director shares his heart for this Ministry:

 

 

Thank you 9th Hour Theatre!

I met Jonathan Harris back in 2011, when I was looking for someone to come to the art group to do a theatre workshop. He told me all about his theatre company, 9th Hour Theatre, which used the performing arts to explore faith. I was immediately stuck by how warm and open he was, and how passionate he was about theatre. Soon after, he came to Innercity Arts and did a theatre workshop. He taught the youth about storytelling, and encouraged them all to ‘tell their story’. It was a powerful workshop.

Almost immediately, Jonathan could tell there was something special about Innercity Arts. He did not need to be convinced, he could see the value in what we were doing. He eventually became a mentor in our program and began attending each week. The youth were immediately drawn to the same openness and warmth I had seen in him.

This year, Jonathan told me that we wanted to do more for the art program. He said, “I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have a theatre company.” He decided to use what he had to do as much good as possible.

He told me his plan to raise funds for OIM after each performance of Godspell, the musical 9th Hour would be performing at Centrepointe Theatre. He set a goal to raise $5000, which truthfully I thought was a little ambitious! Well, they surpassed their goal and raised $6,718.29!

All of us here at OIM were blown away by both the talent we saw at Godspell, and the generosity of 9th Hour Theatre.

On a personal note, I feel inspired by Jonathan Harris. Sometimes, it’s easy for me to think that I do not have the resources to make a difference. But Jonathan is proof that if you use what you have, you can do so much good.   

We want to thank Jonathan Harris, for his continued support of OIM. We also want to thank the board of 9th Hour Theatre, the talented cast and crew  of Godspell and for everyone who came out to attend the show.  

I encourage you all to keep your eyes open for 9th Hour’s next production. You can follow them here.