100% Success Rate at OIM!!

 ‘So what kind of success rate do you have with people?’  I looked at this person while a whirlwind of thoughts raced around in my head, almost like the dog chasing his tail.

My friend was thinking there might be a 3%, or maybe 5% success rate – where a person who lives in abject poverty, on the streets, ‘recovers’ and breaks the cycle of poverty, gets a job, an apartment, a family and all the other trappings that accompany the ‘Canadian dream’.

My mind flashed to people that I knew on the streets: people that had been sexually abused for many years as children and who had articulated these abuses only after living with them in silence for over 20 years;  I thought of others who were trapped in the dark cycle of drug and alcohol addiction which started as self-medication to deal with the beatings received from father, mother, step-parent or whoever; then of the teenage girl who brought her new born baby to the drop in for help, looking for someone – anyone who might show her real love, because in her experience people had only used her as if she were a piece of meat, a commodity that could be sold, rented or used.

All this raced through my mind in just a few seconds, with my friend waiting for an answer to his probing question.

‘One hundred percent,’ I replied, ‘We have a 100% success rate.’

His mouth dropped open in disbelief.  ‘What??  How??’

‘Each time we hand out a sandwich, or sleeping bag, or pair of socks, we build relationship with people who have never had relationship before.  It brings someone a step closer to a time when a light will come on and they will make better decisions and life choices.’

Some agencies count their ‘success’ by the number of plates served at a shelter or drop in (not withstanding that many folks will have five helpings!), or the number of people who attend a chapel service in order to receive a meal ticket, or the number of youth who will participate in a ‘project’ so as to make them eligible to receive services.

We count the number of positive interactions we have with our street friends at our drop in services or on the street through outreach.  It’s all about relationship (and 100% success).

One of our Kids – at the art show

The first time I met Kaylin she was on street outreach two years ago. I noticed her sitting on the sidewalk on Bank Street with a torn up hat placed in front of her and holding a sign that said “Anything would help, even a smile”.

I noticed that Kaylin was crying. When I asked her what was wrong she said that I group of tourists came up and took out their camera to take a picture of her. She asked them not to take the picture, but they ignored her and snapped the shot anyway. Then, without a word, the tourists just turned and walked away.

Kaylin felt humiliated, as if she was not a real person, “…just part of the scenery”as she says.

 Since that day our relationship with Kaylin has grown much closer and last year she joined our youth art program. She really didn’t want to paint because in her words, “I stink at painting”. She decided to make jewelery instead. At our first youth art show people were astounded at her beautiful creations. Encouraged by these compliments Kaylin showed up for art group the next week and said “I think I want to try painting now.”

It’s been  5 months now, and Kaylin shows up faithfully every week and pours out her heart on the canvas.  In fact, she has painted more pictures than anyone else in the group.

She arrived early to help set up the tables and the paintings for our second youth art show just last week. As we were setting up one of our staff asked Kaylin if she was excited about the putting her art work in the show. She said that she was happy but also very nervous because she did not think that anyone would be interested in coming to see her work.

“It will probably only be my mom who comes and that’s it”.

When we opened the doors at six o clock there was already a group of about 15 people waiting to come in. Within the first 30 minutes the room was filled with people who were amazed at the creativity displayed by the youth in the program. 

I looked at Kaylin and she had a big smile on her face, “I guess it’s more than just my mom” she laughed. 

By the end of the night we had over one hundred people who attended. The highlight of the night for me was walking out to the garden area we had displayed some of the art work.

Kaylin was standing next to one of her paintings and she was surrounded by visitors. When I moved closer to hear what Kaylin was saying I realized that she was telling them her life story. She was telling them about how she had struggled with drugs, but that she was doing better now. She was sharing her thoughts about what was needed in order to help homeless youth.

 

As she explained the meaning behind her favourite painting, I looked at the faces of everyone standing around her. They were hanging on her every word, totally locked in and listening to everything she had to say. 

In that moment, I thought back to the first time that I met her. Just a piece of the scenery?

Not anymore.  Kaylin was the star of the show.

Jason Pino, Youth Outreach Worker

Youth Art Show

It was an amazing evening! Thirteen street-engaged youth presented their art work at Dominion Chalmers United Church, and over 110 guests came to see some fantastic works of art.  The hall was laid out to show the art, and overflowed into the adjacent garden.  Guests were amazed at the high quality of art, and the only disappointment was that the art was for viewing only (not for sale).

The youth had the idea of setting up a large table area for guests to be creative with pastels and paint.  It was a hit!  The youth supervised the table and gave helps and hints to guests that were only beginning to discover their own talents. Seven or eight guests at a time, and it worked well.

One of the youth came into the hall from the garden.  She found some flower petals that had fallen from the plant, some strands of grass and wisps of dried grass, and she made a ‘natural’ creation on canvas with the pieces.  “Look, it’s from the garden!” she said as she bounced across the hall to show her friends.

That’s one difference with street artists: they can find use in what is usually discarded.  Most of us would see these items in our own gardens and think, “Time to rake and compost.” This young girl saw something different: she saw something that was redeemable, useful and beautiful.

It’s a microcosm of what is happening with our kids in the art program.  What some consider ‘discards’ or ‘societal throw-aways’ are really diamonds in the rough -kids who have neither had a chance in life nor any positive reinforcement.

Sometimes we can speak words of hope and sometimes we can see hope being birthed.

This is what is happening with these kids.  It’s truly beautiful.

I sat beside the ‘garden artist’, and encouraged her creativity and talent.  She was quiet when I spoke these words of hope into her life, but seemed to be listening intently.

Later on in the evening she approached me and proudly displayed her ‘real flower on canvases.  It was finished and she thought I would be interested.  I mentioned that the way she had finished the centre of the flowers was very appropriate (it really was genius), and her smile beamed brightly.

It the kind of thing that just might change a life!

Street Youth Art Show

Our street youth art program, ‘Passion for Youth’ is making an impact on young people’s lives.  Last year we had nine street-engaged youth in our pilot program and some great things happened over the ten months we were together: four kids moved from the streets into housing, three obtained employment, one finished high school and two came to faith in Christ.

Currently we have thirteen kids involved in our art program (had fourteen, but one moved to Vancouver) and things are progressing well. Volunteer mentors meet with the kids monthly to set and work towards personal life goals, and already four of the kids have achieved their goals: they have entered specific programs to reduce their drug use, and two of these have found jobs!

This coming Monday, June 14th, the kids will be showing their artwork in a special art exhibit, and YOU ARE INVITED!  Here are the details:

Dominion Chalmers United Church

255 Metcalf Street, Ottawa (Lisgar Street Entrance)

6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

$5 admission charge (to go towards the art program. You may make an additional donation if you like).

Desserts will be served and you can come and talk to the kids about their art work, the program and more.  Max, one of our youth, will be sharing some songs and music on the piano/guitar and the kids have created a ‘hands-on’ art exhibit where you can be creative and do your own art piece.  The youth will supervise this and help you along if you need some assistance.

So come out and support this worthy endeavour.  Come and bring some encouragement and hope to these youth who are trying to achieve a higher quality of life.

Who knows?  You just might find some of your own hidden talents!

Street Youth Outreach

She cuts herself to deal with the pain of her childhood.  She’s lived a lifetime in eighteen years, and drinks regularly to cope.  We met her on the streets, and over time have become friends.

She lived at home in intervals: until the fights with her mom got so bad she had to run to the streets.  Mom’s moved away now, so the choices are fewer nowadays.  Hard times, especially in winter. 

Elgin Street, Monday night outreach learns she had been arrested for drinking in public at 8 am that morning, and she would be released at 10 pm.  It was 9:45. 

At the police station we introduced ourselves and asked if Amy could be released to us. Sure, no problem.

When the door finally opened, a bedraggled little girl emerged: bare foot, ripped jeans, dirty t-shirt, scared, sullen, disoriented.  She didn’t know what was happening.  Then she saw us.

Her countenance flashed from darkness to light like lightning sears the black sky.  That someone had come for her – unbelieveable.  Even more disbelief – that someone actually cared for her.   “Thank you.”  “Thank you.” “Thank you.”

A  sudden slap back to reality as questions flooded her mind.  How am I…? What am I…? Where can I…?  Who can…?  The uncertainty of street life rose defiantly and mercilessly – driving her back to those age old problems .  No shoes, no clothes, no coat, no place to go, no way to get there…

An interruption from outreach: “Hey.  It’s going to be O.K.  We can help.”

Words of comfort seldom heard bring a sense of calm.  Disbelief that these people wanted to be her friend, and have come for her.  For her.

Sometimes we are able to offer hope in a world of darkness.

Sometimes we see hope birthed in people minds.

It’s a critical cornerstone in building relationship.  A small thing for us, but huge for Amy.

Just a little thing: but it might be enough to change a life.