A “New” Pair of Shoes

I will always remember that night out on Street Outreach when I decided to bring a used pair of off-white slip-on shoes that someone donated at the office. These shoes were from a well known brand (I don’t remember which one, maybe Tommy Hilfiger). Even though they were a bit dirty, I thought:  Who knows?  Maybe someone may recognize the brand and be happy to receive it.

The whole night went by and we handed out the usual:  sandwiches, socks, juice boxes.  Finally, as we were ending our shift, one of the last persons we saw that night (if not THE last) asked if we had a pair of shoes. I said: “Yes! Here you go,” showing him the famous shoes. To my surprise, not only did he recognise the brand right away, but he was so happy that he couldn’t stop jumping with joy and thanking us, again and again. Even though these “new-ish” shoes were a bit dirty and a bit too big for him, he was full of joy. (I noticed that his current pair was too small for him and the laces were missing).  

It struck me, in that moment, how some of the things that we take for granted can mean so much to someone in need.

– Sophie, Street Outreach Volunteer

 

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.

 

Is there someone out there who cares?

God humbled my pride one night when I met two homeless individuals while on street outreach. Both had experienced tremendous loss. The first was sitting with some Listerine bottles partially hidden away. With a gruff tone, he told us he had lost a friend to overdose recently. The second individual told us he had lost his brother, but he would not share any details.

When someone from the street experiences loss, their own isolation and marginalization is often compounded with the question: Does anyone really care?

Their pain was very real and tangible. In fact when I made the mistake of saying ‘I’m sorry.’ The response from both was a few expletive words wrapped around, ‘what do you care?’ Their comments really struck a nerve with me. I really did empathize with what they were going through. But how do I share with them that they are not alone and that someone does care?

While I genuinely care, I also realize that words often fall short of the mark.

My deepest prayer is that God will show his overwhelming love and never-ending commitment to these men.

– Rick, 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.

Taking Time To Notice

homelessnes in Ottawa | street outreachA walk through a mall or along a busy street looking into store fronts of book covers, clothes, food displays;  along with a few obscure individuals crouched, laying, or partially sitting along the sidewalk with an outstretched hand, cup or ball cap anxiously anticipating a few coins, can quickly become a blur of disinterest.

And yet, they are all there with the same message: “I want your attention.” 

The reward in the discovery of a “blur” is like a box waiting to be opened.

Jake was one such potential “blur” when I stopped for a moment just to say hello and ask how the day was going. Jake wasn’t very responsive and not much in the mood for conversation.

Some boxes are harder to open than others; glued, taped and wrapped in string make them difficult to see what’s inside.

I had ongoing opportunities (God’s anonymous intervention) to interact with Jake and gradually the wrappings (distrust, previous disappointments, addictions and low self esteem) came off. Jake and I have a wonderful relationship today through telephone and, as he has time, at my house to talk about life.

Jake is now a follower of Christ, paying attention to his health and addiction-free because he was more than just a “blur” to a few people who took time to notice.

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.

 

 

 

The Kindness of Human Contact

On a recent family vacation to BC, we witnessed polite but dishevelled panhandlers plying their trade amidst the more decidedly destitute segment of the population, all passive against the throb of the downtown core of that province’s largest city.

In front of the exquisite old railway station and among the edgy new commercial buildings, we found them.

Similarly I saw disadvantaged people in Cincinnati and Shreveport.

They seem to stand out, as icons of another world in which, save for circumstances and choices, we too could share. Perhaps it’s the starkness of winter in the cold and grey inner city landscape that makes them more noticeable.

The homeless are systemic to the “human condition” for a variety of reasons. But few are on the streets because they want to be.

Some are victims, sometimes avoidably so. Many are mentally or emotionally challenged.

However, the vast majority of our street friends silently long to engage in an authentic relationship with someone who cares.

We help simply by lending an ear or sharing a kind word during short encounters on the streets of our nation’s capital.

It takes only a few moments, yet it soothes an ache that only those of us who understand and are willing can relieve.

God’s love, as demonstrated by the kindness of human contact, inspires hope.

Simply being a small part of a less fortunate person’s day can make an immeasurable difference in their lives.

 

1 Corinthians 14 verse 13: “Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.”

 

Peter, Street Outreach Volunteer

 

 

An Unexpected Encounter

I want to share a short, but quite wonderful, blessing I received from my street-engaged friend named ‘Bob.’

When you are on the streets, you are surrounded by many difficult stories and so much pain, so when a blessing erupts in your ministry it’s an amazing thing. The feeling you get is that of God just dropping a wonderful nugget in your lap to bless you.

Bob is a friend I first met at out drop-in and we also had a few connections at our stop-in. We had talked and shared during these times and things unfolded as many connections do. We at OIM, as always, helped where we could with Bob’s needs. I eventually lost contact with him for several months, so I just had to be content with the fact that I was able to plant or water by being a supportive connection point in his life.

Now, several months later, I am sitting in a coffee shop and who comes over, but Bob! Out of the blue he tells me how his life has changed and he thanked us for being there for him. He then proceeds to pray over me, declaring a blessing and favour, as powerful as any prophetic word received.

So I just want to honour God for dropping such a wonderful blessing in seeing the fruit of the increase he has brought to someone’s life and in knowing the small part I played in that. These are part of the moments that regenerate your tanks and strengthen your resolve. I pray that God continues to grow and stretch my friend Bob, and that the fruit of his boldness to pray for and share what the Lord has done for him, only increases in his life. 

 

Rick, Staff

 

 

Conversation at the Drop-In

 

“I’ve been on my own a long time. I left home when I was 10. Been on my own ever since.”

Edward told me this as we sat together in the drop-in.  He is about 65, with tired but kind eyes. He is a quiet, gentle man who can be easily missed in the large drop-in crowd.But he always nods his head hello with a smile.  

I can only imagine the kind of childhood home that would make a 10 year old run away. He said recently he tried to reach out to his remaining family members, but they wanted nothing to do with him. He had tears in his eyes as he told me is all alone in this world.

I couldn’t help but think of the youth I work with, and how many of them have recently left home and are just starting out on their own. I told Edward that it was amazing that, despite what he’s been through, and despite not having a family, he has maintained a gentle and loving spirit. There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of bitterness in him.  I told him that he gives me hope for the young people I know who have just left their families.  

“It’s God. God gives me hope.” 

He said, “I know that God loves me and wants me here. I can’t read the Bible, but I know God loves me.”

“Why can’t you read the Bible?” I asked – foolishly thinking maybe he didn’t have a Bible.  

“I can’t read. But I can feel God around me. I know He’s here.”

It was a beautiful moment, listening to Edward talk about his faith.

A faith that trusts in the presence of God,

even in times of loneliness.

A faith that believes in a loving Father,

even in times of abandonment.

“Mountains” | a Poem by Street Poet ‘Stan’

Most of our street friends are respectful of our overtures to assist them with food, warm clothing and kind words of encouragement. Many are cheerful, despite their homelessness, addictions or traumas. 

Some seem helpless and solely dependent upon one or more of the many institutions, like Ottawa Innercity Ministries (OIM), whose support is freely and willingly available to them.  

Often, OIM outreach teams come across those whose friendly banter and hopeful smiles make our simple acts of kindness extremely rewarding.

Recently, seated on the sidewalk on a cold winter’s afternoon in front of the Rideau Centre, a young man named ‘Stan’ (not his real name) displayed all of these signs of outward appreciation. But in his own small way he exemplified God’s love as can only be found on the street by giving our team something he created himself; a poem of hope called “Mountains” as follows: 

 

Mountains have snow-capped tops

Along its’ ridges many jagged rocks

This makes for difficult terrain

But I want to climb one all the same

 

Maybe just to say I did

But more to conquer the fears I’ve hid

There is always the chance that you could fall

And from this height it could end it all

 

You can’t have these thoughts in your mind

Or the law of attraction must abide

So get out there and give it a shot

And see the view from a mountain top

 

Your whole perspective just might change

Once you remove the fears and doubts from your brain.

 

Peter, Street Outreach Volunteer

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding purpose in low places

Have you read Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning? During Nazi-era Germany, Frankl’s wife, father, mother, and brother all died in concentration camps. Frankl himself was imprisoned and under a constant threat of death.

Despite these dark – and unimaginable – circumstances, Frankl emerged still holding onto hope. His rationale, as he explains in the book, is that even in terrible circumstances, the one freedom still left to a person is the choice of creating meaning out of one’s own life.

I don’t often think of Frankl’s book when serving our street-engaged community. But it was a casual conversation with Ken, our Executive Director, about Frankl’s account that made me think of a few of our clients who find opportunities to create meaning out of their circumstances – despite finding themselves in very low places.

Take Sandra. She is on ODSP and struggles with clinical depression, at one point becoming a recluse for a two-year stretch. While her depression remains, she now manages to get up every morning to visit with friends and to volunteer at a retirement home where she socializes with seniors and, as she puts it, tells jokes and makes everyone laugh around her!

Mandy, too, finds herself in ‘a time of waiting on God,’ she says. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago, Mandy eventually found herself all alone after her husband left her. Now, she lives in a rooming house. She is at her lowest and, while she seeks housing, she volunteers at a local soup kitchen, serving food and clothing, and providing comfort to others in similar circumstances.

And then there’s Craig. Craig’s past is littered with self- and other-destructive tendencies:  Drugs, alcohol, and childhood abuse contributed to Craig’s 30-year life of violence with stints in jail. Back then, Craig used his fists for fighting. Today, he uses his hands to fix and repair. He runs a word-of-mouth ‘handyman’ business that has him doing an array of jobs from repairing porches to painting interiors and even bike tune-ups.

Sandra, Mandy and Craig are some of my greatest teachers. They have found a way to use their challenges, their traumas, and their pain to help others. And while they have not ‘arrived’ by any means – and who has, really? – it is their continual search to create purpose and meaning in the midst of their circumstances, that constantly encourage and inspire me.     

Jelica, Staff         

 

 

Making a Difference In The Midst of Adversity – Is It Possible?

Every time I do street outreach in downtown Ottawa, I can’t help but notice the constants. Like the difference between those who are blessed with “enough” and those who aren’t.

I see it each Sunday night in the stylish clothes some people wear or the cars others don’t have. It’s visible in their health or sickness. It’s in their expectant or distant gaze.

Affluence in Ottawa abounds. We work hard and from a “world” perspective, deserve this. It is apparent in the streetscapes of the neighbourhoods we visit in the downtown core. Walking purposefully north from the office on Bank Street to Sparks Street, over to the Market and then back along Elgin we see the imposing, manmade landmarks; great buildings old and new. Our parks are pleasant places to rest and take in the abundant fresh air. In the evenings at least, the streets are quiet and clean. Ottawa is a world class city. It abounds with hope and a prosperity.

But from a spiritual perspective, things are not always so positive.

There is much strife on our streets and we see it every week. It, too, is world class…

In spite of this, I love going downtown in the fall. We start before the sun sets and end after dark. The vibe doesn’t change; just the ratio of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ alter as the night marches on.

The trendy restaurants are full during the dinner hour but afterwards, while the bright lights still shine throughout the downtown core, people begin to flee open air events like the light shows and canal cruises. Stores close and tired workers escape to the relief of their homes.

But the homeless have no home other than the streets we find them in. Our street community is diverse and reflect a variety of circumstances. There are two happy and informed 62 year olds who I have come to know separately, who never complain and are joyful in our conversations. We frequently meet youth on Rideau Street who are similarly outgoing, but often in various states of sobriety. Then there are the despondent who can’t seem to grasp the severity of their situation nor seek adjustment to it. The more difficult ones are those who suffer from the unkind effects of psychological disorders. They share a common home and often a similar future.

Last Sunday night my young colleague and I sat down beside a woman seated on a curb in an Elgin Street parking lot. She was obviously in a saddened state, bent over crying. She had two plastic bags on the ground beside her, stuffed with clothes that she may have had to rescue in an attempt to escape an unfortunate social situation.

We spoke to her compassionately, telling her we were “outreach”, asking how we could help but to no avail. She wouldn’t lift her head from within her cupped hands nor acknowledge our extended hearts. All we could do was leave her a sandwich and a bottle of water with the good news that “Jesus loves you”.

My accomplice and I are both blessed with happy, healthy homes to go back to at the end of our short shift on the streets. But as we hang up our red vests we are easily reminded that our friends are not as fortunate.

However, we believe that, through our small effort, we leave them in the love of Jesus Christ and continue in the hope that there be a positive change in their lives.

Peter, Street Outreach Volunteer