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 

 

 

A Presence on the Streets

Not long ago, one of our outreach teams was doing late night outreach. It was about 10:30pm when they entered the market area. Across the street they saw a man sitting in his sleeping bag, with a few men standing around him. It looked like a group of friends hanging out, and so the outreach team hesitated to interrupt. But, they decided to see if the men needed anything. The men grabbed some supplies from the team and then quickly walked away – leaving the one man who had been sitting in his sleeping bag. The man said “You got here just in time – they were going to beat me up again.” The man was old and frail, and said he is often beat up and robbed.

Another time on outreach, our team was walking towards a woman who was sitting in an alley way. Two men walked by her, and poured something on her hear. We ran up to her, and could tell it was urine they had poured on her.

It is understandable that often our outreach teams return from their walk of the streets and feel disheartened and helpless. But we remind them that despite the awful things they witnessed, they were there. They were the reason the man was not assaulted…they were there to clean the urine off the woman. The streets can be a scary and awful place to be. But our outreach teams, if nothing else, provide a safe and trusting presence on the streets.

And that’s pretty amazing.

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To be a presence on the streets, join our volunteer team by taking our volunteer training. CLICK HERE

 

– Moira, Youth Outreach Worker 

Crossing boundaries as an outreach worker.  Be prepared for the whole story

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Well it had to be written about; crossing boundaries. How does an outreach worker stay neutral in the face of adversity? How do you face hardships and sorrows day in and day out without needing to do something more? How many times can you hand a kid a sandwich and walk away knowing they will be sleeping in a stairwell that night. What about a pregnant girl… what about a pregnant dog???

I have to admit it; I can be an overly emotional and empathetic person. It’s hard for me to not just bring everyone home. Most outreach organizations have strict boundary regulations in place… and for a good reason.

You see, while you are seeing the in the moment hardship of that individual, you are not seeing the whole picture of that individual. You are only glimpsing a portion of their lives. This is why we don’t judge our homeless friends, because they ARE more than their sufferings. And that’s why you don’t invite a person home… because they are more than the problem you are immediately trying to solve. Yes, you get them off the streets for a night but then the rest of the story unfolds; and you don’t know what that story is. Are you prepared to be a grief counselor, an addictions counselor, a life coach, a psychiatrist, health care nurse? What about anger management? If you take another human being into your home, you’d better be ready for the whole story.

The same for animals, what if they are sick, or have fleas, or have an aversion to children? The image of a sad puppy on the street is not the whole story.

These are the reasons that clear boundaries between workers and clients are so important. If you want to do more, then remember there are highly specialized services out there that can provide the appropriate help. There are many ways to give without needing to solve all the problems of one human being. If you feel you are burning out from helping too much, then take a break from all the hardship and spend some quality time with your family and friends. Help a neighbour or a family member with some chores instead. There are a million ways to you can help with the resources you have. Never underestimate what you can bring to the table, however small.  And remember, you are not in this alone! Together, we can make a difference.

– Dana Cote, Youth Outreach Worker

Turning Youth Away…..

In July 2014, the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program had reached full capacity.

We had  20 youth in a tiny room – with no space for any new members.

But after a lot of prayer, we were able to form new partnerships in order to increase our capacity. We estimated that after a few years we would double in numbers.

We were wrong.

We underestimated the growth of the program. After only one year, we have doubled in numbers. We now have a total of 41 members in P4Y!

This is bitter sweet – while we are excited about the growth of the program, we are not able to accommodate all of the youth who are interested in joining.

Last night, 7 additional youth showed up to P4Y. One by one, we had to explain that the program is at  capacity. We put their names on a waiting list and said we would contact them when we have more room.

It was so hard to see the disappointment in their faces as we turned them away.

One youth, after being turned away, returned and begged us to stay. She said she just wanted to do some art. We let her stay, and she spent the evening working on a painting.

We found out her name is Katy. She’s 16.

We will hope and pray again for new partnerships that will allow us to keep growing so we can include youth like Katy in this awesome program.

 

 

– by Moira, Youth Outreach Worker

Hailey

Last year, this video was put out by a shelter in New York City. You’ve probably seen it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6jSKLtmYdM

In it, people disguise themselves as homeless to see if their family members will recognize them. The family members walk by, none of them recognizing their loved ones.

It’s a powerful video because it makes the viewer consider how they treat the homeless. It asks the viewer “Would you recognize a loved one if they were homeless?” It made me question if I would. And it made me think about Hailey.

When I first met Hailey, she was sitting outside of a Tim Horton’s panhandling. She was young, early twenties maybe. When I first met her she looked nervous and she would barely speak to me. Very slowly (I’m talking 2 years) she began to trust me – she opened up. She told me about her life on the streets and in the shelters and her struggles with mental illness and addiction.

Last week, I saw Hailey on the street and I sat with her for awhile. She mentioned that she had a sister who was living in a small town outside of the city – the same town I’d grown up in. She said she’d grown up there too. We looked at each other and suddenly realized we’d grown up together. I couldn’t believe it. She’d been several years younger than me but we’d played together and we’d always gone to the same school.

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t recognized her – she looked exactly the same!

But I didn’t recognize her because I never expect to see someone I know on the streets. It’s like when you are out of the country – you never expect to run into someone you know. But just like the people in the video, when I recognized Hailey, I was shaken to my core. She shouldn’t be there. This girl I grew up with shouldn’t be there. I can only hope that our paths have crossed again for a reason.

 

– by Moira, 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!

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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.

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”.