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.

Small Gestures

When I speak to new volunteers about what they can expect, I often say that even the smallest gestures – a smile, a conversation, a shoulder to cry on – can mean so much to someone in need.

I was reminded of this recently when a former client called us from Toronto.  She and her husband had been struggling with serious housing and health issues and decided to move to Toronto to be closer to family. While still in Ottawa, they turned to us for basic needs: food, gift cards, personal care.

Quite honestly, at times we felt inadequate to address the seriousness of their problems. What  could our support do to address the bigger complexities of their needs?

Apparently – to my surprise – a lot.

 “OIM,” the wife explained “did more for us than anyone else.”  Puzzled, I stammered, “well, we did very little except to give what we had.” “No, no, you don’t understand,” she insisted. “You were the only ones who supported us through our ordeal.  We had no one.  No one.  I was afraid that one day you would say ‘no more.’  But we kept coming and coming, and you never turned your back. We are so thankful for that.”

I’m still unpacking this today  – amazed, perplexed, reflective.  And I am reminded that only in God’s economy can the smallest of gestures have this kind of impact on people’s lives.

-Jelica, 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.

 

Building Relationships On The Street

Building relationships with those experiencing poverty and homelessness is a cornerstone of our ministry. So when I have the privilege of getting to know someone on a deeper level, I count it a real blessing.

One of those individuals who I have met while on street outreach is “Bob.” Bob has been living on the streets for many years. I count it a blessing that he seeks me out for conversation. I know that Bob lives in difficult circumstances as he carries his entire life on his back with the occasional reprieve when he can find a safe location to hide away his belongings.

We have some very interesting conversations as Bob’s outlook on life is quite unique. Bob, though, never gets angry or refuses to listen when I discuss Jesus and the topic of religion. In fact, we could all take a lesson in manners and upbeat, positive behaviour from him. I know some of the difficulties of Bob’s life and, yet, he still always manages to show a smile, crack a joke and share something encouraging. It warms my heart to see it. Bob has, in our more intimate conversations, told me that he admits to having a dark side, but most of the time he can push it aside and find a glass half full.

I am truly honoured to know my friend Bob and count it a privilege to share the love of Jesus on the streets.

-Rick, Staff

 

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 including a permanent location for our OIM Office as of Aug 1 .

Thanks and God Bless.

God of the Ordinary

“Do you have room for one more?” he asked gently.

It was the end of the day at our drop-in and I was getting ready to clean up the Foot Care Station. I had been there for four hours, cleaning and massaging feet. I was tired. My hands ached. “Of course I have room,” I replied. His eyes sparkled with gratitude. I proceeded to fill the foot basin with water, Epsom salts, and soap. He carefully removed his worn shoes and dirty socks, ashamed as he revealed his soiled feet. I pretended not to notice.

Then he soaked his feet and we began to talk.  

We discussed the weather, his ‘job’ collecting empty bottles, and our mutual love of cats.

 Twenty minutes later, his feet had been cleaned, massaged, and clad with a fresh pair of socks. As he got up to leave, he turned to me and said, “y’know, I wasn’t having a very good day, but I just want you to know that you’ve turned my day right around.” He smiled and walked away.

I never saw him again.

Now, 10 years later, I’ve met hundreds from our street community. Yet this brief interaction touches me still. I don’t fully comprehend its impact, but one thing I know for sure:  it has served as God’s reminder that He delights in using ordinary people, engaged in ordinary acts of service to touch people’s lives each and every day.

– Jelica, 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.

 

 

What does volunteering at OIM look like?

Volunteer compassion at OIM.When people ask about what volunteering among the poor looks like, I tell them about Beth:

Beth comes every Wednesday all the way from the outskirts of Ottawa to the downtown core, where she has been volunteering at the Office “Stop In” for 7 years. Our guests from the streets can always expect her to be here each week where she greets them with a ready smile, a cup of coffee, and a chat. It’s encouraging to meet people who find the time to share a part of their busy lives with our guests with the only objective being to give love and support to the most needed here in downtown Ottawa.

It’s not what she does that matters, it’s that she shows up and let’s them know someone cares.

– Gaby, Staff

 

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

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. 

Thank you and God bless.

 

A Homeless Vet’s Journey: THANK YOU!

Our Christmas Story this year took us on a journey with Kurk. We walked alongside Kurk as he tried to get back on his feet after losing everything in a fire in 2013.

Together we got to see what it’s really like to navigate our social services  system: feeling his pain, experiencing his disappointment, and discovering the strength and stamina he found to stay the course.

Well, it took  over three months after Kurk’s initial attempt to get what is rightfully his, and he finally gets a cheque.

Listen as Kurk comes into the CHRI studio and shares his heart of thankfulness for your support and encouragement over the airing of his journey.

 

Please consider giving a special Holiday Gift to help us continue to reach out, help and support people just like Kurk. To donate, please click on the link below:

 

DONATE NOW

 

(If you missed the start of this 10-Part blog series, click on the link below to start reading. It’s a journey you will not forget – Be careful though – it just might change your life!)

A Homeless Vet’s Journey: Week 1

 

 

A Homeless Vet’s Journey: Hear Kurk In His Own Words, Part 2

Hard times. At all times. It’s not one ‘bad thing’ but it is often a series of one bad thing after another and then another and then another, with no time to regroup and gather strength, and no support to help you through.

No support to help you through… unless someone steps up!

OIM staff and volunteers step up on a regular basis to help and support people who are struggling to survive.

Although there is still much to be done, click the play button below to listen to Kurk’s final thoughts after coming through on the other side of this leg of his journey:

 

Hear Kurk’s Final Thoughts on his Journey So Far. You Won’t Want to Miss it! –>

 

Kurk’s  Final Message.

 

Please consider giving a special Holiday Gift to help us continue to reach out, help and support people just like Kurk.  To donate, please click on the link below:

 

DONATE NOW

 

(If you missed the start of this 10-Part blog series, click on the link below to start reading. It’s a journey you will not forget – Be careful though – it just might change your life!)

A Homeless Vet’s Journey: Week 1

 

 

 

A Homeless Vet’s Journey: Hear Kurk In His Own Words, Part 1

The lives and stories of people on the streets are dark and difficult. Like watching a  bad B- grade movie – circumstances and events happen and  you can hardly believe a human being could endure, and live to tell the tale.

Our Christmas Story this year took us on a journey with Kurk, a homeless Vet, who lost everything. We walked alongside him as he tried to get back on his feet after losing everything in a fire in 2013. Together we got to see what it’s really like to navigate our social services  system: feeling his pain, experiencing his disappointment, and discovering the strength and stamina he found to stay the course.

Click the play button below and listen to Kurk’s final thoughts after coming through on the other side of his journey: 

 

 

Hear the rest of Kurk’s message –>  A Homeless Vet’s Journey – episode 9

 
 
Please consider giving a special Christmas Gift to help us continue to reach out, help and support people just like Kurk. Click on the Link Below to Donate:
 
DONATE NOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Homeless Vet’s Journey: Week 1

For the audio introduction to A Homeless Vet’s Journey click play below:

Kurk had served several tours of duty in the armed forces, serving his country, and some time ago we learned that  he had also been a mercenary. He suffers from what happened in war, and suffers now from Post Tramautic Stress Disorder. When he needed help there was none – no counselling or support to help him recover. He carries this pain and his suffering.

You can easily tell when Kurk is at the drop in. His big booming voice announces that he has arrived – no doubt about that!

He had become more irritable in the past several weeks: he spoke loudly about the injustices of the ‘system’ and how people just were not treated right, and how he really should not ‘be here’ as the government owed him a significant amount of money.

One  drop in day, Kurk was so upset that he was yelling at someone who cut in front of him in line, and yelled that you can’t expect anything more from ‘these people’. It may have been the contents of the food hamper that day, or someone had actually cut in front of him in line, or maybe just that he really didn’t belong here with all these other people. Usually it doesn’t take too long for complaints about the government to arise: the government was withholding money from him that was rightfully his!  They had even ‘frozen’ his bank account!

His voice had risen beyond the level of disruption, and I watched as Jelica walked over to Kurk to calm him down. There was a brief interaction, and Kurk finally settled down. In the midst of their conversation, he said something like, “… AND I HAVE BRAIN CANCER AGAIN…”

I later spoke to him in the hallway, alone. He told me that he had been through two previous episodes of cancer, and this third recurrence caused him serious concern. His eyes welled up with tears and he cried when he told me that his cancer had returned. He continued to cry as I offered a prayer to God for help.

Note: Today there is help for those who return from war and suffer from PTSD. This has not always been available to our veterans and they suffer terribly. ADD to that the challenges of not having a place of your own, and it’s not too difficult to imagine that life will look pretty gloomy, to say the least.

Interact: How might you cope under similiar circumstances? Where would you go? Who would you talk to? How could you manage?

Ken MacLaren, Executive Director

(Kurk’s Journey is a 10-Part Series.  Stay tuned for Part 2)

 

The Bob Series: Marginalized survivors

Note:  To protect the identity of the people I write about, I have chosen to use the name ‘Bob’ in the following piece…

All of the people I share with you are real men and women. Friends with hopes and dreams and all the same desires shared by us all. As a result of some extreme circumstances or mental health issues, their lives have been marginalized to that of outcast in our society.

When we look at those experiencing poverty and homelessness we tend to fit them into a framework and think they have earned the place they have in our culture. It helps us to justify the favour and blessings in our lives.

Yet  God does not see anybody that way. He sees all people through the eyes of the cross.

Namely, who they can be, at their fullest potential, the bride of Christ, clean pure and amazing. We should look at all people through those same eyes of love and then apply action to support them with our time, our prayers, and our resources. I have up to now and will continue to share with you stories about “Bob,” attempting to paint a picture of the incredible resilience and ability there is in the human spirit to survive.

I started this blog with, these are true stories about real lives, of men and women and youth with all the same feelings, desires and dreams that we all have. So remember, as we look at our street-engaged community we need to engage, and also remember that the cliche saying “there but by the grace of God go I”. This may be more of a reality than we care to admit.

Rick Ojala, Staff

 

*To see more from the series, click here to see part 1, part 2, and part 3.