Tiffany Smith Portraits

It’s been so busy around OIM lately, especially with the P4Y program. That’s why it has taken this long to acknowledge this woman. I want you all to meet Tiffany. Tiffany is a kind, creative, loving and fun woman who is also an exceptional photographer. I planned on having our youth photographed. I wanted lifestyle portraits that wouldn’t focus on deficits, but rather on strengths. I wanted to exhibit their originality, creativity, strengths and beauty. Then Tiffany came along. Tiffany Smith runs her own photography businesses. You can find her at: https://www.facebook.com/tiffanyismithphotography?fref=ts,  http://tiffanyismith.com/ or http://auraatelier.com/  Tiffany took her time with each youth and really captured their essences… and she did it all for free! We at Ottawa Innercity Ministries are so grateful to her for her time, her energy, and her graciousness. Here are a few samples of her amazing work.

 

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– By Dana, Youth Outreach Worker

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

A Chance Meeting

When I meet a youth on outreach for the first time, I am always aware that it may be the only time I ever see them.

The lives of street-engaged youth can be so insecure and unpredictable that our paths may never cross again. Knowing this, I try my best to make some sort of connection and pray that I have helped the youth in some way.

I met Jasmine in the summer of 2014. She was standing on bank street and told me she was staying in a shelter after becoming homeless after fleeing an abusive relationship. We talked for a little, and then I went on with my route. Months passed and I didn’t see her again. I wondered about her…was she still at the shelter? Had she returned to her abusive partner?

Then, about 7 months later I received this text:

final text

 

Since sending me this text, Jasmine has become a member of the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program. She is there every week and always has a bright smile on her face.

I took a picture of this text and saved it so that if I every wonder if these brief outreach meetings are meaningful, I know the answer.

Small Things With Great Love

Mother Theresa is quoted as having once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This is precisely what describes one couple who come regularly to our drop-in.

Betty and Alex started coming to the drop-in in the fall of last year. It was clear from the start that they were a little shy and uncomfortable, unsure about what goes on at our drop-in. They spent a lot of time in the hallway, next to the dining room, unsure of themselves and their unfamiliar surroundings. After speaking with them, I learned a little of their story:  Alex is on disability and they get by on Betty’s meager earnings cleaning homes. Their ability to stay afloat was precarious and they were both at great risk of becoming homeless. They knew they had to start relying more heavily on social services as well as their local food bank if they were to avoid eviction. They had arrived, as many new drop-in people do, in crisis.

We were able to provide what we could that day: breakfast, a hot lunch, sandwiches, dessert and a couple of bags of groceries as we always do each and every week. Although this is a common service, one that we have available to anyone who asks each and every week, to Betty and Alex, this was a miracle! Through tears both Alex and Betty thanked us. They were so grateful and went away with full bellies and hearts full of thanks.

This was the very least we could do.

And wouldn’t you know it? Betty and Alex returned week after week, full of joy and gratitude as they gathered their strength and made the most of the resources they had around them. Soon, they were able to move from a cramped bachelor apartment to a 1-bedroom. “We have so much more space!” Betty beamed.

And, it appeared, a desire to pay it forward.

As they received more blessings from OIM, they began blessing the community therein. Most weeks, they would gather older housewares and pick up gently used clothing from their neighbours and donate them to our clothing room. They do this with gratitude and thanks despite the little they have themselves. They are also eager to let OIM know how very thankful they are for the service we provide, offering words of encouragement to staff and volunteers by way of cards of thanks and, recently, a box of chocolate for the staff (my favourite was the butter cream chocolate – yum :)).

rock art gift

And just a few weeks ago, Alex painted this small stone with tulips on it for me. He created this with the few spare art supplies that we were able to offer him. Art, as Betty explained to us, is a valuable, therapeutic tool for Alex’s mental health and wellness. And in keeping with Alex’s generous spirit, he used the paint supplies we gave him to bless us in return.

A small gesture, delivered with great love. What a blessing!

Jelica

Managing Director

The Tale of Two Piano Movers

HI – My name is Dr. Greg Payne. I help folks at the Ottawa Innercity Ministries Drop-In center. This story I am about to tell gives you a glimpse of what I experience serving at the drop-in and how insightful and incredibly impactful it can be!

This story unfolded in a manner of 45 minutes.

The first guy came in the drop-in to get his chiropractic adjustment for his intractable lower back pain. You see, he was a piano mover 20 years ago. On one particular job, his partner agreed to lift on the count of 2 but instead waited an extra second and lifted on the count of three. This man felt a “pop” and “tear” in his lower back and was in considerable and immediate pain. He was a casual laborer and as such had limited benefits to assist in his recuperation (which was mainly pain medication and physical therapy). His symptoms eventually decreased but the problem really never left. He found intermittent work (over the following year) but his back pain prevented him for any gainful employment. This put such a financial strain on his family that his wife and child left him for a more secure future. His remedy you see for the pain at this point was more alcohol and drug use. Thankfully, he is starting to find some healing in the chiropractic care at the drop-in.

The second man was 20-30 years his junior. He came in to the drop-in carried by friends stooped in half with acute back pain 30 minutes later. He had just suffered the same injury the first man received all those years ago! Same type M.O., young family, laborer etc. After a history and examination I adjusted him. Miraculously, he rose off the table standing straight! He was still tender but the healing seemed active and present! With tears he thanked me and was able to walk out of the walk-in – praise God.

One thinks – or wonders, what if the first guy had an adjustment instead? Would he still be with his family or his family still with him? The consequences of choice are absolutely staggering put into context!  My purpose in life is to better people’s health through spinal reconstructive work so that people can build an awesome legacy!

If you would like some help on how to stretch and strengthen your back just click here and I’ll get that to you! 6 Common Things to Strengthen Your Lower Back

Blessings!

Dr. Greg Payne

“What Am I Supposed To Do?”

Last week, I was doing outreach downtown when I came across Ben.

Ben is one of the “oldtimers” – one of several men who have been on the streets for decades. He was friends with all the oldtimers……Ed, Carl, Joseph…..all of whom have passed away over the past year. Ben says he’s one of the few left.

2015 has been a big year for him so far – he finally got housing.

His eyes lit up when he started talking about his new place. “It’s a huge one bedroom! I’ve even got a flat screened TV!”

But as he continued to talk about his apartment, his tone changed… “I don’t know what I’m doing down here….”

“I know I shouldn’t be downtown. I know I shouldn’t be doing this….” He showed me the bottle of rubbing alcohol in his pocket, “But I don’t know what to do. What am I supposed to do?”

Ben’s days used to be comprised of panning change to make money for a drink, and then sharing drinks with friends in the park. Then going to sleep, waking up, and doing it all over again. It may have been unhealthy, but this lifestyle provided 3 important things: routine, purpose and community.

Now he has housing – but what community? What routine? What purpose?

 

 

Shane’s Story, Episode 4: Outreach Team and P4Y

Shane’s Story is a eight episode blog post where Shane tells her story in her own words.  Each week in December, on Mondays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. you can click on both the radio spot and then read the Episode of this special gal’s story. Tweet it to your friends – it gets better as we get closer to Christmas, and Shane’s special Christmas wish to each of you. Hold tight! it is going to be a great ride! Merry Christmas!”

Click the ‘play’ button below, then read the rest of her story in this post:

I met Moira (OIM youth outreach worker) a few years ago. That was during my really messed up time. I remember how it happened…

I was busking on Rideau Street with my ukelele and Moira came up and said she ran an art group and that I should come. She gave me a sandwich and a juice box and she just kind of kept doing that every once in a while when I would be playing and panning.

I thought it sounded like a trap. I know you’re wearing a vest and all that but anyone can wear a vest. I thought she had some sort of agenda. She came around 4 or 5 more times and I got to know her.

There was another kid from the streets who had gone to art group that I had spoke to and she said that it was legit. I was like ok, and that there was free dinner every night. Ya I went and it was legit. That was pretty cool.

At first I was nervous because there was older street youth that I recognized. I was scared at first but I got used to it. Plus there was like the art supplies I was like oh my god! I don’t have to pay for paint but I can paint anyways! So I kept coming. I think I’ve been going there for about 2 or 3 years.

The art group is really great, you kind of get like self-confidence, like a self esteem boost especially when your art goes up for auction and your art is shown.   Sometimes you’ll see other kids art from the same group in like a restaurant. You feel like ‘I’m professional’. Definitely I look forward to every Thursday, guaranteed I am getting supper. It’s not gonna be just macaroni because I can’t afford anything else or just tuna because I can’t afford anything else. It’s gonna be like vegetables and casserole – not just pasta all the time..

It’s good, I like it.

You get to learn social skills.  I guess I kind of missed learning social skills. You get kind of forced into it: it’s good talking to people or acknowledging strangers when they talk to me is now a little bit easier. It does a lot of good things for a lot of people.

I like the art shows. Sometimes I just hang out by myself or whatever, and sometimes I play my own music, like live for people, and there’s lots of food. I’m always game if there’s food. I always bring my ukulele. You can hear what people say about your art, and that’s cool.

wishing well

A sculpture of a well Shane made at art group called “Space Change”.

Remembering Homeless Veterans

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People hurry by the large monument every day, most never pausing to look or even acknowledge it. One lonely man, white haired, in torn and dirty clothes stands alone at the base of the steps leading up to a large stone coffin. Tears running down his cheeks, his jacket showing signs that they are real, a well-worn beret clamped in his hands. People avoiding him, his actions make them uncomfortable. Slowly he places the beret on his head, adjusting it so it sits perfectly. His posture changes, he stands erect. He marches 2 steps forward, slams his right foot onto the cement and slowly raises his right hand in a perfect motion. His fingers touch the edge of his glasses and he offers a silent prayer mouthing thank you as he slowly lowers his arm to his side. Executing an about turn he marches away from the coffin. Still weeping but managing to control the tears and is quickly engulfed in the flow of strangers.

Who is this man?

He is a symbol of what we cherish the most; our freedom. But he is also homeless, a veteran of our military now reduced to living on the streets because the help he desperately needed was either denied or wasn’t made available to him. My friend John lived in a nightmare with things he was asked to do while serving our nation. Things that he refused to talk about until one cold day just after OIM’s Easter Dinner. He told me about driving a truck in some far off country, the pain still vividly haunting him as he relived the horrors and the stern warnings about not stopping for anything if the convoy was assaulted. He spoke of the methods the Taliban used to try and force them to stop, of how they would sacrifice woman and children for to achieve their goals. He spoke of the memories that came screaming back every time he looked at his little girl and how he eventually lost his wife and her to the lack of treatment. His pain was real, not something created for attention.

The man at the coffin is also George, a veteran who was forced to retire before his prime because of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) whose battles continue daily as he struggles to survive. He faces ridicule because, unlike the war vets, he fights not only his demons but the stigma of being forgotten because he has never gone to war.

This man is Jim, a warrior now forced to survive in a wheel chair whose battle is now staying alive as he faces countless medical challenges. Whose heart is bigger than anyone I have met. Whose love fills the air around him like a beacon, but who is, sadly, ignored because of the image people see.

Who are these people? They are men that I am proud to call friends, brothers, someone that I share something in common with; we are all veterans. They have been forgotten because the reminder of what we stood for is too painful to recognize. They are the walking wounded. They are the marginalized, the ridiculed, the scorned, the forgotten. Take the time to get to know them, have a meal with them, thank them for their service. Remind them that the sacrifice they were willing to make will not be forgotten, they will be remembered, and not just on Remembrance Day but every day of their lives.

The next time you find a man, or woman, weeping at the monument as they pay their respects. Put an arm around them; support, them, remember to say thank you.  When you are asked what a veteran is remind people that a veteran is a man or woman, who signed a blank cheque, payable to their country, Canada, for everything up to and including their lives. They were a special group of people willing to die , to ensure that Canadians can live free. Only two people have been willing to die for you: Jesus on the cross for your salvation and a veteran for your freedom.

– written by Ken Byars, a Canadian veteran and a dedicated  OIM volunteer

What a difference a year makes….

outreach workerSeptember 27, 2013 was a very special day for Eva: it was the day she moved off of the streets into her own place. It was a small room, but it was hers. And it was the first time in years that she had a place to call her own.

Eva left home in her early teens. Eventually, she became homeless and addicted to drugs. As a young woman on the streets, she was quite vulnerable. But she learned how to take care of herself and when I met her on outreach several years ago, I quickly discovered that she was one of the strongest young women I had ever met. Despite having to be in “survival mode” on the streets, she still had a loving and generous spirit.  She would often point out others who needed help, or tell me places to go where she knew I would find more people needing outreach. She often joked that she should do outreach, because she knew how to find people.

I soon learned that Eva was artist, and in fact, she was one of the first youth to join the art group. One time at art group I remember talking with her about her future, about getting sober and going back to school. She told me that she would never stop using drugs. When I asked why, she told me that last time she tried to get sober she became suicidal. Using drugs was her way of coping, and she was scared to take away that coping mechanism.

But a year ago something changed. She started making small changes in her life, which led to big changes like stopping her drug use, reconnecting with friends and family, and starting to think more about her future and what it could be.

This September marked some big landmarks for her: not only did she celebrate one year of living in her apartment, but she also re-enrolled in high school for the first time in years.

September 25th marked another incredible moment: it was her first night doing outreach as an OIM volunteer. Together, Eva and I walked the streets of Ottawa handing out sandwiches, socks and drinks. Most of the people we met on the street had to look twice at Eva, often saying “Hey it’s you!” or “I knew you looked familiar!” before congratulating her on becoming an outreach volunteer.

They were so proud of her.

And we are too.

I’m so excited to see what the future holds for Eva.

Her new outlook on her future? She plans on becoming an addictions worker.

Mural Reflections

The Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program spent the summer painting a mural on the wall of Trinity Anglican Church. It was an amazing experience.

Below are two reflections on the project:

On the right in a drawing by one of the P4Y artists, which depicts herself painting the mural.

On the left is a poem written for the mural unveiling by Jamaal Jackson Rogers.

Thank you both for sharing with us.

BRIDGE OF FAITH– by Jamaal Jackson Rogers 20140917_150339

From the moment that we realize
That our pens, pages, voices, stages
And a little bit of spray from an aerosol can
Creates art
It’s like magic
Manifesting in even the most unsuspecting of places
It’s as if our eyes have turned on a silent inner light
Of faith
And beauty
A bridge for which our hearts can find comfort in community and a place to call our own
In a second
The landscape of a forgotten brick wall can become the vibrant canvas of which youth can call home
An abandoned language
Spoken in splashes of camaraderie
Between the sinews of streets and shops and churches
Whispered in wisps of concrete sermons
To bring life back to the seemingly bleak and obsolete
Giving birth to purpose and legacy
You see
It was never about how we find refuge when the world seems so dark
And dull
For the lovers of life
And the crafters of art
Can take just one thought and turn it into actions of love and brilliance and truth
For truth can be seen
And has been said can set you free
So if we agree
Then I ask us to look
With our hearts wide open at the scene that has come together
Built through movements of giving, selflessness, dedication, respect, understanding, activism
Look
And discover how faith and beauty intersect by a little bit of spray from an aresol can
Look at how life is a like a journey on the longest bridge we will ever have to cross
And with the blessings of art
It won’t be so hard
We will rediscover what puts the passion in compassion
Marvel at the wonder and awe of the subtle lines and wavy curves of the human condition
Revel at the power of the robust colours that hold the secrets to our universal connection
But I ask you to not stand still
Eventually I want nothing more than all of us to travel in succession
From our alienated lives of dust, wood and concrete
Into a congregate existence of unity, harmony and positivity
There is hope
In the eyes of the young who know what it’s like to be found but once was lost
There is hope
In the elders who have much to give from the experiences they carry in their palms
There is hope
And the miracle of it all is that you don’t have to search very far
You don’t have to be a scholar graduated from Harvard or own a Bank account that holds plenty of dollars
Because hope lies right here
In this moment
At the feet of life’s bridge that joins abstract and simplicity
Fantasy and reality
Stories and history
Self-expression and self-reflection
So today let us honour the citizens of our society
Who have strived to make a mural that represents a philosophy of mutual solidarity
Those who have called our minds eye to look again
To find meaning in these streets
A renewed belief composed in a house of paint where we can set the burdens of our differences free
That faith, beauty, hope, art
Can spark change
Inside and out.