Who’s in your “Love Army”?

 

Who’s In Your “Love Army?”

Not all family comes from a place of birth.

Often those situations can be traumatic, painful and unhealthy. If we take a minute to pause we can notice in our lives that we’ve all experienced trauma. However, to some it just looks really different.

Day after day my heart fills with awe at how a community can create love and purpose in the lives of others who would not otherwise receive it.

Here’s a question worth taking a moment to ponder an answer… who is in your “love army”? You know, those that hold you up, who you depend on and help define a part of who we are. What would society look like if we encouraged emotional connectedness? There would be community, passion, empathy, connection.

At OIM we have an extra special program called the Freedom Group. Here we come together in a safe, confidential space where we share, laugh, make connections in a beautiful community and use art to express ourselves.  This month we are talking about the topics of community and purpose; how they affect us individually and how we can positively impact others around us.

This week for our art medium we brought out our inner child and used playdough. It feels great to express yourself with something as it squishes between your fingers, just like puddle jumping in the rain.

Using our super cool, tangible coloured dough balls we answered 2 questions; 1. Who do you depend on? Who’s in your “love army”? 2. What makes you feel alive?

Each creating  unique masterpieces to answer, we shared what they meant. The unanimous conclusion seemed to be that our “love army” did not come from the family home; rather the extra special people surrounding us that have our backs in the dark times as well as times of personal growth.

What about you? Who’s in your “love army?”

-Bonnie

Youth Outreach Worker

 

 

He Fought Like a Soldier

On Jan 15, OIM launches a NEW Innercity Veterans Outreach & Support Service (DETAILS BELOW).

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing veteran and volunteer perspectives on the issues facing our homeless and at-risk veterans. 

Every Tuesday for the last several years, you could always count on Marcel to greet you at the drop-in. Walking in first thing in the morning (with a Tim Horton’s cup in hand, of course), he would make his way to his regular table, but not without first greeting each staff member and volunteer.

He had a special connection with two of our volunteers: Ken and Kirk, who are both veterans. You see, Marcel was a proud veteran himself – having served in the Canadian military for several years. But like so many other veterans, after leaving the military he felt lost. He struggled with alcoholism for years, which eventually led him to the streets. But Marcel was a strong man, who persevered. He fought to get off the alcohol and to reclaim his life. He got sober and got a small apartment. But even after surviving homelessness, his life was not easy. He struggled daily with depression and PTSD. But he fought. He fought like a soldier.

One Tuesday at the drop-in, Marcel did not show up to greet us. One of his friends brought us the news that he had died suddenly over the weekend due to a heart condition. There were tears shed, as friends comforted each other.

Although years have passed since his death, the OIM community is remembers Marcel. We remember his courage and his resilience.

We thank him for his service.

And we will miss him dearly.

Marcel at the drop-in

Marcel at the drop-in

 


If you are a homeless or at-risk veteran, or know someone who is, you are welcome to attend OIM’s,

INNERCITY VETERANS OUTREACH & SUPPORT 

Wednesdays, 10 to 11:30 am

OIM Office,  391 Gladstone Ave.

We offer a safe community and one-on-one support in a welcoming environment.

Available services:

Access to resources & literature

Access to phone & computer

Individualized support

Recreational activities

Refreshments & more

For more information:

Contact Rick at rick_oim@rogers.com or call our office at (613)237-6031

A Tough Night

It was a particularly rough start to the night at Innercity Arts. One of the youth had arrived in distress, suffering from a mental health crisis and inebriation. His behaviour was out of control and his health was in danger – so we made the decision to call paramedics.

Like so many other young people on the streets, this young man became afraid and agitated when he saw the flashing lights of police and ambulance. We tried our best to keep him calm and reassure him that he was safe. It was so difficult to watch as he yelled and struggled with the paramedics who were trying so hard to help him.

From the corner of my eye, I could see several peers from Innercity Arts watching quietly. I sensed that they were guarding their young friend, making sure he was not being mistreated.

When the ambulance left with the young man, I approached the group to make sure they were okay.

“I know that must have been hard to see your friend like that”, I said.

“Actually, we wanted to make sure YOU were okay,” one replied.

Surprised, I questioned “Me?”

“Yeah, you looked to sad. We just wanted to make sure you were okay,” one said.

“When I saw how upset you looked, I thought wow, you guys must really care about us,” another said.

It is amazing how one moment my heart was aching, seeing a young person in such distress. And in the next moment, I was being comforted by the very youth I was there to comfort! I am constantly amazed by the capacity young people on the streets have to show compassion and caring for others, even when they have so much going on in their lives. I am so thankful for this community.  

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Pancakes and Paintbrushes

Innercity Freedom GroupThey get up early… something that’s not in their nature or character; mornings just aren’t their thing.

Brushing the experiences of the previous night off their faces, putting on possibly the only set of clothing they own; making their way to a place of love and acceptance for who they are.

The Innercity Freedom Group – a recovery group for whatever hurt or habit someone is overcoming in life – meets on Monday mornings. It’s a safe community where everyone is welcome. It’s a group designed to provide support through whatever the struggle is, and since we all have challenges in our lives, we are all the same there.

As you enter the front doors the smell of pancakes and syrup overtakes your senses and the laughter of a community of friends who have your back makes you feel like you’ve definitely got the right address.

Exploration of thoughts is used through different mediums of art and our motto is “What happens and is said at IFG stays at IFG”.

No one has to share in front of the entire group each week and there is opportunity for one on-one-mentorship afterwards if anyone wants some extra support.

It’s often the little things that help us the most when we are striving to overcome the trials in our lives, like someone saying “I believe in you” or “what you say matters to me” or “I see your pain and I’m sorry that you are hurting.”

Pancakes and paintbrushes. It’s how we do life “one day at a time” at IFG. ‘Right now’ is really all any of us has and it’s worth celebrating.

If you or anyone you know would like to check out the Innercity Freedom Group, come by Monday mornings at 10:00am. We would love to have you.

 

391 Gladstone Av

Ottawa, Ontario

613-237-6031

bonnie_oim@rogers.com

 

 

A Glimpse into Mental Illness

Damon was downtown one afternoon, when he began to sense the ever too familiar feelings of anxiety and depression taking over: quickening heart beat, pain in stomach, and the overwhelming feeling of dread and despair. Negative thoughts started to race through his mind. He had a few hours before art group and worried these feelings may overwhelm him completely before then. He sat down with his sketch book, and started sketching how he was feeling. He probably sketched more than 10 drawings in one sitting. When he arrived at art group, he told me about his day and what he had been feeling. We flipped though the sketchbook together. His drawings told a story of someone feeling empty, incomplete, and unaccepted.

The sketches were heartbreaking. But the moment was full of hope. Damon has learned over time that his art can be a valuable coping mechanism – a way to express feelings that seem inexpressible. And he has learned that art group is a community that accepts him and values him. He says he looks forward to it each week and that it is one of the only communities he belongs too.

It is an incredibly hopeful moment when someone is vulnerable enough to give a glimpse into their own experience – not because you can fix how they are feeling, but because they just need someone to see it and acknowledge it.

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New Bursary Program

For the past several years, the Canadian Stone Carving Festival has raised funds for Innercity Arts. The festival founders are passionate about supporting street-involved youth through the arts, and wanted to make a meaningful impact.

We are proud to announce a new initiative in partnership with the Canadian Stone Carving Festival and the Ottawa School of Art, called Freya’s Bursary. This bursary will provide professional level art education to four Innercity Arts participants each year.

Two youth will take a course at the Ottawa School of Art, and two will take an introductory stone carving course at Smith & Barber Atelier.

Several youth applied for the bursary and it was incredibly difficult to decide on just four youth – as all of them are deserving of this opportunity. Some common themes in the applications: a desire to learn a new skill, a need to use art as a therapeutic tool to cope with trauma and mental illness, and a hope that being in a post-secondary institution will help them regain the confidence to return to school.

We are so excited about this bursary and can’t wait to see where it leads!

To learn more about why the bursary is called “Freya’s bursary”, click here.

 

 

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Larissa’s Journey: Teen Years

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 JourneyNo more foster homes would take me. No more group homes. I had aged out. They asked me where I wanted to live. Since I had always wanted to live in Ottawa, I chose there. They dropped me off at the young women’s shelter, and left me on my own.

I didn’t feel ready to be on my own, but it was a rush – at least at first.  I was so new to everything. At the shelter I could go out whenever I wanted (in group homes you weren’t allowed to do this), and I felt like a free bird. After three weeks though, things were very different.

I had freedom yes, but there were also responsibilities. Before the shelter, anything I did, I got a slap on the wrist, and told not to do that again. Consequences came at the shelter. Anything you did wrong, you had to answer for it and deal with it. It was terrible to be an adult. At sixteen I was forced to be an adult, and I wasn’t ready.

My clothes were always stolen by other girls. I was a bit smaller than everyone else, so tighter clothes on the other girls was very popular. I watched them in my clothes, and I felt like crying. Some of those clothes had memories.

At the shelter, for example, I learned that you couldn’t share a toothbrush. Hygiene was different for me too. I really didn’t know how to look after myself. I still don’t know some things. I don’t do dishes. I used to fill the tub with hot water, soak the dishes in the tub with ½ tub of bleach, and you let them soak. When you can pull them out and there’s no food stuff on it they were ready.

When I was about 16, I went to see my mom, and found her Percoset and OxyContin pills and my mom was doing crack. I used those drugs for about one month before they almost killed me. Every step was like almost floating on clouds. I felt like I was on a big marshmallow. I couldn’t feel the ground under me

I went home to the kitchen and dropped.  I went to the hospital for a couple of weeks. I almost lost one of my kidneys. That was the end of drugs for me. 

I was at the shelter until I was seventeen. I left when I was banned and was homeless.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares what it was like to be living on her own, homeless on the streets. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words.

 

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 

 

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.

Made of Good Quality by a Caring Craftsman

A well-tailored striped shirt will have all the stripes lined up perfectly at the junction of the sleeve and shoulder and it will come with instructions for its care sewn in. Clarence came into the world in very much the same way, made of good quality by a caring craftsman (Genesis 1:26a).

Yet he was not cared for in the same way as he was made, left with many stains of abandonment and abuse. Over time, alcohol, depression and the lasting hurts of childhood, took their  toll, eventually causing him to lose his ability to work, drive, and even eat due to failing health.

I first came to know Clarence when he began visiting our OIM drop-in.  We developed a good friendship and I have been working with him through some of these challenges.  I have also had the privilege of leading him to a personal relationship with Jesus.  We pray together and he comes to church with me when he has the strength. 

Please take 30 seconds over the next 30 days to support Clarence in prayer for Holy Spirit to encourage and help him to fully trust in Jesus and to grasp his worth as one made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26a).

-Lloyd, 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.