New Home for Innercity Arts

You may remember that back in January, Innercity Arts had to leave our much loved art space. The room that had been our home for 3 years had to undergo a major renovation, so we packed up all of our art supplies in search of a new space.

We kept the program going by packing supplies into 4 Rubbermaid containers and running the program at various locations, such as the Ottawa School of Art, Centre 454 and St. Albans Anglican Church. We are so grateful for these partners who opened their doors for us. As always, the youth in the program showed their resilience and flexibility. They continued to attend the program at various locations and never complained.

We were so excited to tell the youth (after 8 months!) that we had found a new home for the art program at 391 Gladstone. Not only that, we were thrilled to show them a beautiful building where they can do all the art they have been missing – spray painting, carving, sewing, and all the messy art we have not been able to do in our temporary spaces. We also have space for a music room, where our musicians can jam and record music together!

It has been incredible to be in this space and already it feels like home. We are so excited to see what the coming years hold of the art program.

We invite you to come see the space at our open house – drop-in on October 16th from 6pm-8pm at 391 Gladstone Ave.

 

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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.

Restoring Hope

Restoring hope to those experiencing poverty and homelessness.One of the highlights of my week is to head out into downtown Ottawa on Thursday evenings. The anticipation of meeting up with old friends and the eager expectation of new encounters and relationships is truly an experience like no other.

No, I’m not referring to stopping into a “Cheers” like pub where everyone knows your name.

Rather what I’m talking about is being part of the OIM Outreach Team, dropping in to visit a demographic of our city commonly, though inaccurately, referred to as “homeless street people.”

You see, the friends and acquaintances I meet up with on outreach may not have a house or an apartment, but they do have a home; the streets of Ottawa and by the grace of God they have found family at OIM.

I am so thankful for God’s provision for my friends through OIM. Because of the “behind the scenes” planning and logistics and the generosity of OIM partners, each night we can go out onto the highways and by-ways and bring a blessing to our friends; whether it be a sandwich, a cold drink, toiletries or clean underwear. 

Through these initial contacts I have had the opportunity to take some time and listen to their stories, who they are, where they came from, their hopes, their dreams and even their fears. You see, once you establish the trust that comes through sharing the love of Christ in a tangible way eventually there are opportunities to share the truth of what a relationship with Christ really means and, in due course, begin to restore their hope.

-Ric, Volunteer

Home is where your backpack is

home is where your backpack isI left home when I was young to flee from the life I experienced behind closed doors. I’ve  temporarily called “home” other people’s places, done some couch surfing and attic apartment living… you know, the kind where you have to walk with your neck bent to one side. I’ve called “home” staying near biker gangs and ate raw dollar store noodles and opened “mystery cans” that didn’t have labels on them to call it dinner on the inside; I’ve referred to myself as blessed when gifted a box of cereal.

The friends we meet on the streets call the doorways of businesses, behind dumpsters, and indoor parking garages HOME. Youth call park benches, nooks under bridges and bushes safe and cozy places to sleep.

We call walking the streets with a wagon filled with sandwiches, socks, granola bars, juice or water and a gentle smile Outreach. Going out in teams of two or more on a path to find friends; some we know intimately and few we hadn’t had the  privilege of meeting until then, with a wagon filled full of hope and temporary comfort.

When we as a society go visiting friends and loved ones, we approach their front doors with excitement, anticipation and a jolly knock at the door, eager to see the faces on the other side.

Approaching our street friends’ homes is done with permission to enter, giving them the same respect that we want to be shown in our homes. We enter with a smile and a wagon filled with hostess gifts.

Ever seen someone that doesn’t necessarily look or smell like us walk around with tattered shoes, dirty hands and a less than new bag?

Ever wonder what’s inside them?

Every prized possession lays just beneath the zippers of their backpack. For some it might be a hotel sized bar of soap, a pair of socks, a water bottle…perhaps even a coveted picture of a loved one, longing to be seen. The very basics…not enough to get through the day, but valued nonetheless.

Our sandwiches, given from a gentle hand to a weathered outstretched arm goes directly into a worn backpack to be saved for later; received with a soft “thank you” and a grateful heart.

I’m overly blessed that my over-sized bag is now filled with more than a box of cereal. I now have the ability with a giving heart to pay it forward to those I’m overjoyed to call my friends. The absolute pleasure and blessing is mine to visit them in the doorways with their bags…because home is where your backpack is.

-Bonnie, Staff

 

Just Like New

God is in the business of giving us second chances, to recreate, repurpose.“Scratch and Dent”, “Refurbished- Just like new”, “We Buy Junk-We Sell Antiques” are a few well known and in themselves very “worn out” catchphrases, all used to catch the attention of a few people looking for a good deal.  Proverbs 20:14 says it this way, “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase.” 

The world is historically a society of Junk Dealers and Ecclesiastes 1:9 proves itself true: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  The catchphrase today is “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.”  There was a time when everything was made new and created for a specific purpose and function. Then something happened and these items became unable to function for their intended purpose.  Genesis 2:7 says “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” But something went wrong. Adam and Eve sinned, disobeyed God, and the world has been in a continual state of repurposing ever since.

The good news is not only good, it is very exciting!  God is in the recycling business and likes nothing better than to take “Scratch and Dent” projects, recycle them and repurpose them.  That may not sound so exciting, but to those who have been hurt, have some very bad habits, have been hanging onto life by very worn threads or are suffering from some form of addiction, this is very good and exciting news.  

Please take some time over the week to pray that God, in his mercy, will continue His recycling business. He is looking for some well worn projects to refurbish.

-Lloyd, Staff

Thanks to the Canadian Stone Carving Festival!

The Canadian Stone Carving Festival took place this past weekend on Sparks Street. This is the second year that the festival has partnered with Ottawa Innercity Ministries in order to raise funds for Innercity Arts. If you want to learn how we first got connected with the festival, you can read it here.

I spent the weekend at the festival, getting to know the carvers and others volunteering their time and energy to the festival. There is truly something special about this community of carvers, who gather together for their love of carving and their desire to give back to the community.

Several young people from Innercity Arts spent their weekend helping out at the festival. They were busy sweeping up dust, shoveling stones and passing out many water bottles to keep the carvers hydrated. So often, street-involved youth and young adults are ignored or mistreated, but the carvers showed their genuine appreciation for the youth’s hard work.

The carving community also showed that they value these youth by donating 100% of the carving sales to Innercity Arts. The carvings raised a total of $9375!

Ottawa Innercity Ministries would like to thank Smith & Barber Atelier, for organizing the festival, all of the sponsors, the carvers, and the volunteers. We look forward to next year’s festival!

A Bright Star at Night

bright star - my friend, Bob - Street OutreachI want to tell you about a friend who always lifts my spirits when we talk.

I have had the pleasure to come to know Bob, my friend, who has lived on the streets for a number of years. I count it a blessing that he will actually seek me out for conversation. I know that Bob lives in some pretty difficult circumstances as he carries his entire life on his back with the occasional reprieve when he can find a safe location to hide away his belongings. I have also come to learn some of the reasons he lives the life he lives.

We have had some very interesting conversations as Bob’s outlook or viewpoint on life is quite unique. Although he never gets angry or refuses to listen when I discuss Jesus and the topic of religion, even though he strongly opposes my faith. In fact, we could all take a lesson in manners and upbeat positive behaviour from him. The truth is, it warms my heart, knowing that despite some of the difficulties of Bob’s life, he still manages to show a smile, crack a joke and share something encouraging. Bob has, in our more intimate conversations, told me that he admits to having a very dark side, but most of the time he can push it aside and find a half full glass.

I am truly honoured to call him friend and always look forward to our chats. 

-Rick, Staff

 

 

In The Attic

For the 9 years Innercity Arts has existed, we have been lucky to have been welcomed into several churches to run our program. First Dominion Chalmers – where the program began and grew. Then for years, we met in the attic of St. Peter and St. Pauls, where the program thrived. In that attic, there was a small room that was used as the music room. Young people would spend hours jamming together in that room, creating amazing music. One night after art group, one of our musicians (Dan) felt inspired and wrote a poem about creating music in the church attic. After he shared the poem with us, one of our artists (Eric) felt inspired to make a painting based on the poem. The result was an incredible image of youth making music above the church.

While we had to leave this amazing church attic due to renovations, we have been lucky to find temporary space at another church, St. Albans Church. And this poem still rings true. Wherever we go, no matter what the space, at Innercity Arts young people find community, create art, and make a joyful noise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innercity Arts Show 2018

Thank you! 

Innercity Arts would like to thank everyone who came out to our annual art show and auction at the Lansdowne Horticulture Building on May 10th. 

It was an awesome event with a collaborative art piece being created, musical performances, spoken word poetry, and $1860 worth of art was sold!  A special thank you to Koyman Galleries for providing frames, Little Victories Coffee for providing coffee, and Christ Church Bells Corners for providing meals for the youth artists. 

Check out some photos from this awesome event! 

 

One night on outreach…

It was one of those weird weather nights. It was spring and yet we were in the middle of a snow storm.

During our weekly outreach evening down in the city’s core, we met up with Jane. She was being bullied by the guy she was with and she was freezing cold. We invited her to step in out of the cold with us to warm up and put on a warm hoodie that we had on hand. It was very apparent that Jane needed some detox help and, when asked, she said that she didn’t know where she was going to sleep that night.

While we enjoyed our warm McDonald’s coffee together with Jane, we made a few calls and teamed up with the Salvation Army Outreach Van in the area. As we waited for the van to pick her up, we tried our best to make her feel safe in our company. We shared some jokes and a few giggles over coffee. We had a lovely visit and soon she was on her way to a warm, safe place to sleep for the night. Before she left, she gave us a hug and a grateful smile as she made her way into the van.

I so love all the moments we get to share with our street friends even while we assist them with some very real and urgent needs. Every moment and experience is different and unique and always a blessing to be a part of.

-Bonnie, Street Outreach

 

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.