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A Place of Third Chances

With his long, white flowing hair pulled back in a ponytail, Simon walked into our drop-in and back into our lives, eager to “give back” as he put it. As Simon explained, he had been released from prison and was getting his life back together. Estranged from his ex-wife and with a 14-year-old daughter to raise, Simon did not want alcohol or his past troubles to hold him down…again.

That’s because this was his third time around.

Having taken the next steps to go through an alcohol treatment program and transition into a community living facility with employment-readiness training, Simon was finally looking forward to the future. “My graduation from the treatment program is tomorrow,” he beamed. “I was up at 5:30 this morning writing my graduation speech – seven pages so far!”

Simon’s sense of accomplishment was evident.

But so was his desire to move forward. “I need to stay busy. I want to get a part-time job and to start volunteering at OIM.” We were happy to welcome him, to come alongside him in his journey back to health and stability. “You guys were there for me when I needed it,” he told us, “and now I want to give back.”

It was gratifying to know that Simon felt welcomed at our drop-in (not an easy thing for ex-offenders to find in any community, as you can imagine). But, there he was, helping us set up, serve lunch, and tear down at the end of the day.

He was in a place where he felt welcome to start over (again).  And while the road to stability is not easy, often paved with setbacks and disappointments, giving ourselves – and others – permission to make some mistakes along the way can make all the difference.

 

Jelica, Staff

 

 

What if it was you?

Valentines Day Week – just passed. Kudos to all of our volunteer outreach workers in all capacities: street outreach, drop in, office drop in, prayer partners, donors, those who cook for our event dinners, the ones that donate sleeping bags and all kinds of other goodies that we use as tools to make connections with those who live and breathe on the streets of our city.

Sometimes, just sometimes, our street outreach volunteers might walk their routes in minus 30 degrees, and come back feeling somewhat disappointed because on this cold night, they only saw a couple of street friends. Then the thoughts come, “I wonder if I am making all that much difference anyhow. It doesn’t feel like it tonight at least.”

Stop. Pause.

What if it was you?

You on the streets, maybe even on that one cold night when no one much pays you any attention really, and you feel invisible, forgotten, neglected, and abandoned. Then the recurring thoughts from your past come: thoughts of ‘no good’, you’ll never amount to anything, you are not really worth the effort…

Then an outreach worker shows up with a sandwich, a juice box, but more importantly, a smile, an inquiry about your week, a reminder of something that you said last week or time when you last connected, and some random (or planned) word of encouragement that really lifted your spirits…

How would that make you feel?

For the one’s and two’s and groups on the streets, and the teams of two or three volunteers walking and watching-  add these together and you have two: one, a great deal of difference in someone(s) life; and two, ‘everything’ (and all that entails) to our those who call the streets their home.

A small thing for us maybe, but what if it was ‘you?’ I know it would mean a lot to me.

Ken MacLaren

Danielle’s Story: Episode 3 – A repose in the midst of trouble

“Danielle’s Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!

As soon as I turned 16, my friend’s mother invited me to live with them. It was a very emotional experience finally escaping my family once and for all.

It was a highlight of my life.

I remember laying down in the small bedroom that they let me stay in. They painted a nice cloud on the ceiling and they all were so very sweet.

At the same time, I was worried about how they might treat me. I had these panic attacks, with my heart racing and feeling like I was about to die.

I was confused emotionally, and scared, I guess.

My friends mom was very structured. She taught me about doing chores: doing dishes, laundry and all that. She never yelled at me, included me in the trips to the cottage, included me in all their family activities, helping in the garden.

They noticed that I was struggling with my homework, so they sat down with me at the table and helped me focus. I just wanted to write stories, but they helped me get through school.

 Living with my friend proved to be the safest time in my life that I have ever felt. My grades went from D’s to A’s. 

Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone.

Why not let them know that they are NOT alone?

Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month?

Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 1 – Early Life

“Danielle’s Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!

Hi my name is Danielle. This Christmas, I’d like to share my story with you- not to make you feel sorry for me, but because, I strongly believe stories help bring communities closer together. They teach us powerful lessons. They help us grow. They teach us to be thankful. I am so very thankful for all that God has given to me through OIM and people in our  community who really want to help others. Stayed tuned to Family Radio CHRI to hear my story after the 8 AM and 5 o’clock evening news. Here is my story as I told Ken.

My father had been disowned by his parents; my mom lived in a group home and suffered from mental health issues. After my mom became pregnant with me while staying at the group home, she left the province and cut all ties with my birth dad. I never met him as a child. He tried to make contact,  but my mom would not allow it. When I asked my mom about my dad, she never told me the truth, she changed the stories all the time. She told me she didn’t know where he was, but I found out later, she knew where he was all the time.  I remember as a young child asking God to please help me find my father. But I never found him.

 My step dad came into the picture when we moved to a different province, and they had a child together. I had friends that wouldn’t talk to me because my mom would tell them untrue things about me.

 It was also around then, I noticed my mother was acting very strange – she and my step dad fought constantly and she’d throw things at my stepfather. He was using drugs and alcohol regularly, and when my sister was born, she had developmental and speech delays that really affected her.  

 When my brother was born, he had even more learning disabilities. They beat him with a belt, threw him down the stairs, yelled in his ear – he can’t hear properly even now.  He hurt his sister with his metal toy car, and my step dad took the metal toy car and hit him with it on the head.

 At the  time, I wished my siblings had never been born. I think my parents stopped loving me.

 

Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone.

Why not let them know that they are NOT alone?

Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month?

Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

 

Eric’s Journey, Episode 3: Drugs Owned My 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 Continues His Story. . . 

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Eric in 2011

“Drugs were the biggest part of my life. Everything revolved around drugs. Panhandling for money for drugs. Stealing for drugs. Doing whatever I could to get more drugs. They owned my life.

Drugs messed up my life. I had some part-time jobs and was able to have an apartment for a period of time but I lost my job when I didn’t show up for work. I had a couple of homeless guys living with me at the time who had no other place to go. We did drugs together by I ended up losing me place every time.

I didn’t’ really deal drugs very much, but I connected people with other people (drug dealers) and that helped me out a bit.

I spent some time in jail. I don’t have a big criminal record for anything really; sometimes I used my brother’s name instead of mine when I was pulled over by the police. But all of my criminal activity always revolved around drugs and more drugs.

Then while panhandling, I met some people on the street that really helped me lot. They invited me to come to an art program. I used to do art all the time when I was a kid. Some of my stuff was pretty good.

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Eric at the P4Y art program in 2009

Yeah so when these outreach guys invited me to come to the art program, I said yes. Well, it took awhile but finally I went.”

Coming Up on December 14th –

Episode 4: Something happens in

Eric’s life that changes EVERYTHING . . .

 

 

 

 

 

OIM does not receive on-going government funding to operate any of our programs. Instead, we rely on the goodwill donations of concerned citizens and business people in the National Capital Region. We need your help to continue our youth outreach program. Please make a donation today, click “Donate Now”. Thanks!

Eric’s Journey, Episode 2: Throughout School and then Through WITH School

“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 Continues His Story….

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“One of the places I lived growing up was near the RCMP stables. One of my friends lived there and one day he talked me into trying pot. When I did I found it was so amazing. Suddenly, I found something to bring me happiness. It didn’t take long until my friends dad found out what we were doing and called the cops. I was still in elementary school. I think I must’ve been around 11 or 12 years old. I didn’t stop me from keeping using drugs.

My dad was drinking quite a bit and I was pretty sure he did drugs.

Things actually seemed pretty normal to me. I thought everyone lived like this. I know there are people that don’t have family at all and no support at all, I’ve met them on the street.

Being high made me happy and that was what I was looking for. But it’s not real happiness. I was looking for something that could help me manage my life.

In high school I was doing pot a lot and doing other drugs too.

During those years of high school I went to stay with my dad. He has just separated and divorced his second wife and I stayed with him for a while. He lived on the eighth flood of an apartment building and I remember a time when I saw that it would be so easy just to jump off the balcony and take my life. These weren’t the first thoughts of suicide for me. I didn’t know where to turn.

Drugs were the reason I quit high school. I was addicted to them heavily. I was injecting drugs. I lived in the downtown core and panhandled to live.”

Coming up December 9th – Episode 3: OIM street outreach teams find Eric and make a first connection. It’s the beginning of relationship, support and encouragement. 

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.

Shane’s Story, Episode 7: Back to School

Shane’s Story is an 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!”

Listen to a part of Shane’s story by clicking on the ‘play’ button below, then read the rest of this post:

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The program from Shane’s award ceremony.

I’m back at school. How that happened, my little sister kept bugging me. She dropped out of high school as well and entered a program at Algonquin. She told me it was really easy. I didn’t have to do two years at an ‘alternative school’.  I’d just have to do like just half a year, or maybe just one.

So I went there, and it turned out they had a bursary so it was completely free for me because I had no income.  And because I was in school, I was entitled to a surviving child benefit ‘cause both my parents are dead – good until I’m 25 years old. So there was a bit of money there, ‘cause I could have a grocery for free month, if I do this. I won’t ever have to sit and panhandle any more. I won’t have to sit for five hours to get $40 to buy like the cheapest grocery I could ever do. Or walk all the way to the dollar store to get the cheapest laundry soap or light bulb or whatever.  Now, I just go get it. I haven’t had to panhandle for quite a while now.

School is going well. I’m good at it. I’ve already graduated computer skills. There’s an award ceremony coming up – I’m getting an award for math.

(Awards ceremony Thursday.  I attended and watched Shane get her award.) Go girl!

That was beginner math and I’m in intermediate math now, after 3 months. It’s all at your own speed and every day I hand something in to my teachers. It’s called College Preparation and counts as high school equivalency.  It’s recognized all throughout Ontario.

I’m planning to finish my high school as soon as I can and continue at Algonquin. I am going to be a plumber!

Shane’s Story, Episode 6: The System – Welfare

Shane’s Story is an 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!”

Listen to the first part of her story by clicking on the ‘play’ button below, then read the rest in this post:

I filled out forms for CPP as a surviving child – if one or both of your parents die before you’re 25, they will help you.  I am also on Welfare, so they consider the money from CPP as earnings – although I didn’t ‘earn it’ – I have an overpayment of $600 although I didn’t receive that much, so after this (meeting) I have to go over and talk to them.

My welfare worker always tries to play funny games.  Others too – just to get you going. I’ve only had one good worker, the rest are always on you, on you, on you…

I’d even have Doctor’s notes to say, “I’m not all here,” (mental health wise). So don’t try to poke me. Don’t do it, ‘cause I’m gonna get in trouble, and both of us are gonna end up getting hurt. Just me or you, or both of us.

But they still like to poke.

During the OC transpo strike, I had to go to school in order to get my welfare, ‘cause I was under age and it was a condition. They knew we’re dealing with mental health issues, and my dad just died and I’m just going crazy. I’m breaking everything. I’m breaking my face with pans, every chance that I get, just take it and swing it at myself – just to feel like different.

It was an hour walk from where I was living to school in minus 30 in the winter, and another hour back to where I was staying. That’s what she (my worker) wanted me to do. You’re not supposed to have to walk if it’s that long, and you’re not supposed to do it, but she didn’t care. She just cut off my money. Too bad. Go to school – that’s easy for you to say, you have a car.

Right now, because I get CPP… it’s been difficult with CPP

When I found out about CPP and applied, welfare was nattering at me and needing more and more information, and they kept on cutting my cheque, putting stop payments, trying to get it back. I hadn’t received any money from my dad’s CPP yet, I don’t know, they just try to get away with stuff. Stuff they can’t get caught on.

When my dad died, OW (Ontario Works) asked for his S.I.N. number for his information , and somehow she mixed up my dad’s and my S.I.N. number, which she had on her file, which she could have looked at any time she opened my file: she opened my file with my dad’s number and it came up wrong, deceased or expired, so I had to keep going over to City hall and tell them there’s something wrong with my card; they’d check on my S.I.N. number and said it was perfectly fine. Then back to my worker and she said, ‘No, it’s broken, you must be lying. Go back to City hall, which I did. They again said, ‘No, its fine,’ and they’d give me a stamp of approval, and I’d go back and she’d type it in again, and she’d say, ‘Oh, my mistake.’ I don’t think it was an accident. You would have to go into my file and change my information. This is not an accident. She was just stringing me along.

I didn’t know if I’d have rent or food. What was I going to do? I couldn’t buy tampons if I didn’t have any money – so… black pants for this month. Then I got another worker. She was better.

For a while that is, then there would be a letter: You have been cut off.

For my cheque, I only get $120 each month for basic needs. The rent is paid directly and then there is just $120 left. They expect you to keep a cell phone paid for, just so that they can stay in touch with you.

I know people who scam off welfare, and they never get caught. I’m just trying to get by and it’s so hard.  Maybe these people just get lucky, I don’t know. They never get cut, they never get notes, or bad phone calls, they just get money.

I jump through hoops and try to do everything right, but they still take away my money.

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”.