He fought like a soldier

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.

This 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 over the weekend due to a heart condition. There were tears shed, as friends comforted each other.

So this Remembrance Day, the OIM community is remembering Marcel. We remember his courage and his resilience.

We thank him for his service.

And we will miss him dearly.

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Marcel at the drop-in.

 

Changing the Legacy of Youth Homelessness

How can we change the legacy of youth homelessness in Ottawa?

This is a complicated question with an array of possible answers.

Back in June, we partnered with A Way Home Ottawa and set up a table at Glowfair. We asked people to answer this question in just one sentence, and write it on a piece of cardboard.

Tons of people made signs and pretty soon our table was surrounded by cardboard. People had all sorts of great suggestions: more affordable housing, advocacy, community outreach… But of all the signs, the one that stood out the most was a sign made by a little girl, who was probably around 7 years old.

When asked how to help homeless youth she wrote: Love everyone. Every day. Every night.

love everybody sign

Yeah….I think that if we all took her suggestion the legacy of youth homelessness in this city would drastically change.

 

 

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Giving Their Time

A few weeks ago a handful of our youth participated in a fundraiser for Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat is a small northern Ontario community which has declared a state of emergency due to the large volume of suicide attempts from their population. Our youth felt the pull to show support for the youth in this small community. This was a wonderful event with beautiful traditional ceremonies and dances. The youth participated by creating live paintings for auction. With their work they were able to raise just under $600. I was so proud of them. They worked hard and produced some of the best work I have seen from them in just under 2 hours. Check out the incredible work they did below.

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Adulting101

Although I consider myself a fairly competent adult, sometimes the youth in the art group ask me questions that leave me stumped – and I feel like I need to go find a “real” grown-up to help.

This happened a few weeks ago when Mark asked me about credit checks. While I knew a little about them, I brought in one of the volunteers (Doug: aka a “real” grown-up) into the conversation…just in case. Doug was able to answer with ease, which led Mark to ask more questions about banking, taxes etc.  You see, Mark had been homeless for years but he recently gained employment and moved into his first apartment – so now he’s trying to navigate adulthood.

At the end of the conversation Mark admitted that he felt stupid for having to ask these questions.

He said “I’ve been homeless since I was 13…..I should know this stuff.”

My heart sank.

Because of course it makes sense that he doesn’t know this stuff. While most youth have parents to transition them to adulthood, Mark’s been on his own for years.

I reflected on this and thought that even at age 30 I have so many amazing people who I can call up when something about adulthood is confusing me. It would be awesome, I thought, if I could lend my people to Mark to help him navigate adulthood.

And that’s basically what we decided to do.

Together, Dana and I created a seminar called “Adulting101”. Any youth could attend to ask questions about living independently (taxes, banking etc…), and we would try our best to answer. We also brought in some experts to help: a career coach, a financial adviser, an entrepreneur and a few other highly successful adults. The results of this night were amazing. There were tons of questions like: “If I get a job, how does a boss pay me?”, “What if I’ve never filed taxes before?” and “How do I start my own business?”.

It was an incredibly simple night – no structure, no complicated programming. Just young people eager to ask questions and adults willing to listen and offer guidance. Simple but so effective.

A Volunteer’s Reflection

Lots of people tell me that they think I’m doing so much when they hear that I do street outreach with OIM. I go out each week to hand out sandwiches, socks and a kind word hoping to share the love of God and encourage people.

bicycle-against-wall-1563544But yesterday I ran into Sue who OIM has been helping for many years. Many people dismiss Sue without knowing how sweet she really is.  Sue knows that I ride my bike all winter and the first thing she asked me was whether I had ridden my bike yesterday.  When I said “Yes”, she immediately took my hand and began to pray for me:

“Dear heavenly Father, please protect Rick with your love and mercy and keep him safe”.

In that moment, Sue gave me more than I had ever given her and she changed ME.

 

By Rick – Rick is an OIM outreach and drop-in volunteer who has been volunteering for several years. 

 

Prayer Request

It was a particularly cold night on outreach last week when we came across Brian. It was our first time meeting Brian – who informed us he would be sleeping outside that night. I shivered at the thought – I was freezing cold and had only been outside for about half an hour. We offered him things to help him stay warm – gloves, a hat, a sleeping bag, a cup of hot chocolate.

But Brian said “You know what would help keep me warm? A prayer. Would you pray with me?”

We knelt down with Brian as he led us in prayer. He thanked God for His love, and all He has done for Brian. He then asked God for help to overcome his addiction.

Brian thanked us for our prayers, and we told him we would continue to pray.

If you’re reading this, say a prayer for Brian.

Eric’s Journey, Episode 1: Early Life

“Eric’s Journey” is a 7 part series running throughout December. To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button belowFollow along all month to hear this amazing story! 

 

 

Eric Tells His Story….

One of my first memoriesIMG_6583 was having cancer when I was three years old. It was leukemia. For a couple of years I went to Camp Trillium, which was a place for kids who had cancer. I remember I was so sick that I threw up everything in my stomach and was throwing up bile. I was limp in my fathers arms and said “Get a fork so I can save the chunks!” I remember being in the hospital a lot and I also remember Camp Trillium. I could even draw you a picture of the shape of the island.

I went through a series of treatments until finally I remember them saying you’re not going to get this kind of cancer again.

It’s hard for me to remember, it is hard for me to focus my speech.

My parents separated when I was six and they later divorced. They never got back together. I don’t ever remember them living together. I didn’t know how to act of react at home in the past – it was pretty confusing. I had two different parents living in different places. They knew each other but I was back and forth between two homes and I was pretty confused. I didn’t act out at the time, but I guess deep down I was really sad and mad -at the same time – at both of my parents. I didn’t know what to do, through that relationships thing. I don’t like to be negative about my parents but through it all I became a bad person. I didn’t say anything to anyone at the time but those thoughts were in my mind.

 

Coming up December 7th – Episode 2: School – until drugs and alcohol drove him to the streets.

Get Me Out of Here…

outreach-workerMy outreach team was downtown recently when we saw a large group of street friends ahead of us. There were about 10 men – they were drinking, yelling, listening to the loud music that was blasting from a stereo. We approached and started giving out outreach supplies. I noticed that in the center of the group was one woman who was closely surrounded by the men.

I couldn’t tell for sure if she needed help so I tried to make eye contact with.

She approached me and looked into my outreach bag, pretending to ask for outreach supplies. Instead she said “Can you get me out of here?”

I took her arm and started walking purposefully away. She was very intoxicated and had to lean on me for support. As we walked away she started crying, saying that some of the men were pressuring her to take them home with her.

She asked us to walk her to her friend’s place where she knew she’d be safe. We walked with her and listened to her as she cried. When we got to her friend she hugged us goodbye and thanked us for keeping her safe.

I’m so thankful that when she saw us in our red outreach vests she recognized us as safe people who could help her.

 

– Moira, Youth Outreach Worker 

Volunteering at Art Group

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Pillowcase dress

After almost two years doing foot-care at OIM’s Tuesday drop in, I recently switched to Monday evenings with the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program. As difficult as it was to leave my Tuesday friends, I soon came to know the young people who attend art group Monday nights.  Not only do I have the privilege to get to know these young men and women, but as volunteers, we are responsible for mentoring, encouraging,  and helping them set goals in life.  Being witness to such raw, original, artistic talent is awe inspiring.  An added bonus for me is that I get my “baby fix” with two beautiful baby boys who come with their parents!

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Batman mask

Since discovering a sewing machine, several young people have come forward with sewing ideas and designs of their own.  The very first sewers were several of the young men who transformed long pants into board shorts.  Now there is a line-up for the machine with more people, sewing projects such as rock collecting bags, coat alterations, little girls dresses, fur hats, baby clothes, etc.

The biggest project to date has been a leather Batman mask, which started out as a $5 leather skirt from Value Village.   It was labour intensive but it was completed in time to be worn for Halloween.  To work alongside these young people, is an experience I cherish.  To see the smiles and sense their feeling of accomplishment in creating and completing these projects makes my heart smile so big it hurts.

I LOVE what I get to do with OIM 🙂 <3

– By Debby, Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program volunteer 

 

An Offering

 

RoseI met Rose about 3 years ago when I was doing outreach. What I noticed about her right away (and what I think everyone notices about her) was her energetic and bubbly personality. Her big smile and loud laugh are contagious!

But her life hasn’t been all smiles….she had a rough life that led her to homelessness and addiction. But despite this, she has never lost her optimism for life.

She started coming to our drop-in out of a need for community and support. Over the years, she has made positive changes in her life, including securing a safe apartment and becoming sober. But the more you get to know Rose, the more you see that helping people is central to her life. Even though she is on social assistance and does not have much money, she will always give to those in need. She has a heart for helping youth and often befriends them on the street and refers them to resources that can help them.

When she heard about out Passion 4 Youth Fine Art Program, she wanted to help. We mentioned that we could use help preparing food, so she offered her baking skills. Twice each week, Rose bakes homemade desserts and brings them to our art program. She loves to make sweets that she knows will be a treat for the youth.

We feel blessed to know Rose and we are so thankful for her offering.

 

 

If you want to help cook for the art program, please contact Moira at moira_oim@rogers.com or Dana at dana_oim@rogers.com