Posts

The Journey

I’m so proud of Tammi!  She has had a long time addiction to crack cocaine…somewhere around fifteen years I think.  Like many of the users we see, she has tried over and over again to break the addiction.  It’s an addiction folks!  Don’t kid yourselves….it can be very hard to stop an addiction!!  As much as we would like to say that our friends we serve just make the decision to quit and then stop, never to return to the vice again, that is not really the way it is usually.  Often they stop for a time, days or weeks or sometimes months but then something triggers the addiction again, it’s too strong of a lure and *poof*, back on the substance they tried so hard to stay away from.  Tammi has been like that.  Off the drug and back on again, off and on again, always feeling bad when she’s on, proud when she’s off, but trying, over and over again.  I pray for her.  I pray the day will come when she quits for good.  I pray for the day that she is strong enough to not be enticed by the pull of the drug or the trigger that consumes her thoughts.  But right now, I’m just proud of her.  Today marks her one month anniversary of being clean….again.  Way to go Tammi

-Erin

“Low Places”

Suzanne comes to the drop-in every week without fail. Her story is similar to many others: she immigrated to Canada several years ago and she continues to struggle to make ends meet. She comes to the drop-in every week to get much needed support and community. She is also attending language classes a few times each week because she is determined to improve her English. She refuses to speak French at all at the drop-in because she wants to practice her English as much as possible.

One day after lunch, Suzanne was staring across the room and she had a look on her face that was so peaceful and joyful that I had to ask her what she was looking at. She pointed at two men who were standing across the room and said “When I looked over at these men I saw Jesus standing in between them, with His hand on their shoulders. Do you think that’s crazy?” I told her I didn’t think it was crazy at all. She started smiling and said “Jesus is here. The politicians, the rich people, they don’t come here. But Jesus does. He comes to where the low places are.”

The low places….those words have really stuck with me. Often we think of God standing up on high places looking down on us. But Suzanne is right, Jesus is right there with us, even at the drop-in.

– Moira

Cold Toes, Warm Hearts!

It was -27 degrees last night! Sweet merciful crud that’s cold! But the Wednesday night Outreach crew, appropriately bundled up, had a warm night regardless. In particular, Edwin and I had a wonderful chat with a new friend, in the fleeting warmth of a local MacDonald’s. Andy has an experience common to many of our street friends: he’s in his mid-twenties, and has been hitch-hiking from major Canadian city to major Canadian city for the past few years: Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Montreal and St. John’s have all been stops – but he spent the New Year here in Ottawa, sitting in front of an exhaust fan. We heard quite a travelogue of a few years of life filled with adventure, crime, sadness, victory, defeat, and love – a truly gripping tale just waiting to be heard at your local downtown heating vent.

So here’s some advice: next time you’re looking for a good story, forget the local bookstore, disregard the internet, put down your video game controller, and strike up a conversation with someone on the street – adventures await!

Jeff

The Red Mitts

Recently I had the privilege of participating in a One Homeless Night activity with OIM staff (go Moira!) and a group of teens from The Meeting House, an Ottawa church. If you’ve never participated in One Homeless Night, it provides a good introduction to the life of our street engaged friends in Ottawa, involving a lot of useful facts and statistics, but also a whole lot of walking, introspection and prayer at key sites in the urban core. In this case it was also a good way for OIM to stock up on some needed supplies, as the teens and adult volunteers were encouraged to fundraise at work, school and church to purchase sturdy winter mitts for donation. Accordingly, several dozen thick, thermal, red mitts were added to the OIM stores.

And speaking of those mitts – our regular weekly street outreach team had two great experiences involving them. The first involved a young man, early twenties, leaning against the side of a building. When he saw our red vests he jumped onto the sidewalk. “Outreach!” he yelled. “Do you guys have any gloves?” When offered some red mitts he was delighted. We chatted a bit more and offered our usual round of food, juice boxes and snacks. “That’s ok,” he said, “you can save those for someone else. I eat plenty, I’m just really cold – these [the mitts] are great.” His mix of honesty (“I eat plenty, I’m just really cold”) and generosity (“save those for someone else”) are a defining experience of our street community.

The second experience was with a middle-aged man huddled in a nook near a downtown bus station, with a cap on the ground for holiday shoppers. I’ve seen him around before, but I don’t know his name because he appears to have a significant speech impediment – he typically communicates with a series of squeaks. I approached him to offer him a snack and he started hopping up and down on his bum, squealing a bit, and rubbing his hands together as if they were cold. I offered him the red mitts. BIG SMILE. Much contented rocking back and forth. On go the mitts. BIG SMILE. I’m not sure who ended up appreciating what they received more: he the mitts, or me the biggest smile I’ve seen in months.

Jeff

Sasha’s Story: Final Episode, My Christmas Wish

Sasha’s Story is an 8 part series running until December 24. To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click   Episode #8 My Christmas Wish

 

My Christmas wish for Ottawa Ministries is for them to have lots of help. Because they do needs. They do help a lot of needs for people. They helped me out a lot, in so many different ways. I mean at the end I even got my discipline. And I mean, it took a long time for that discipline.

 

Self discipline – to be able to go and wash yourself and be able to care for yourself and actually try to love yourself again. I mean, I didn’t have that in me. I always had rage or anger or hate or…there was always something. That’s not good, that’s not healthy.

 

I’ve had more love from Ottawa Ministries than I had from my own family. I mean, my mother loves me, she thinks the world of me, but I also was damaged. And there’s this damage in the back of my brain that I don’t ever forget. There’s sometimes that when I think about certain things that happened in my history and my whole life, I get sharp pains in my chest.

 

For people on the Streets:  Well, we all buried our pain with drugs. We all buried our pain with alcohol. We all buried our pains with sex or different things on the streets, so if we can turn around and loop ourself back there, we can loop ourself out. It doesn’t take a scientist to change. I mean, there’s a lot of working miracles out there. 

 

Once, we found this man down by the river. He was quiet guy and all that and we went down there at Christmas time and had Christmas with him, too. We had a tree and they had all those needles on it. It was a junkie tree. Like a Christmas tree. All drugs, it was all in the tree. It was all we had. We had nothing else.

 

Sasha continues to grow in her relationship with God and us at what she calls, Ottawa Ministries.  We walk with her – sometimes the journey is hard. Her life constantly reminds us of important values and her generous, selfless spirit is an inspiration to us all.

On behalf of Sasha and all her friends, the volunteers and staff at OIM, have a very Merry Christmas!

Sasha’s Story: Episode Seven, Hope for the Future

Sasha’s Story is an 8 part series running until December 24. To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click   Episode #7 Hope for The Future

 

[To Ottawa Innercity Ministries]

 

Just keep doing what you’re doing! Don’t change your patterns, just keep doing what you’re doing.

Connecting with people, giving a sandwich, making a friend – that’s the important thing.

Ottawa Ministries is like a safety blanket – and it’s a safety blanket that I don’t want to leave.

 

[As for me…]

 

I’d like to go to the States sometime, just to say I was there.

Just to say I have been out of Canada.

 I have been to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Grand Prairie, but never the States. 

That’s where I’d like to go. Boston maybe.

 

I’d also like to go on a boat ride, a cruise maybe.  No booze, no drugs or anything like that.  They’d be playing old music, and maybe there’s a bunch of Christian people there and everybody’s having fun.

 

 That’s what I’d like to do.

 

In our Final Episode:  Sasha shares her Christmas Wish for others.  Christmas Eve at 8:00 am and 5:00 pm we will have the concluding episode of Sasha’s Story.   Her story has been a special gift to us all!

Merry Christmas!

 

Sasha’s Story: Episode Six, Outreach

Sasha’s Story is an 8 part series running until December 24. To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click   Episode #6 Outreach

 

(Editor) Sasha has a big heart and has given herself over to helping others: others that you and I could never reach.  With a heart of compassion and careless abandon for her own safety and well being, Sasha does outreach:

 

I remember when I asked for socks and you gave me ONE pair.  I didn’t want ONE pair of socks, I wanted a bag of socks. Three bags!  I took those socks to people under the bridge and along the river that your teams would never get to. 

 

I met a little girl new to the streets, who was sleeping under the bridge.  She was 13 or 14, and guys found her and were sending her out to work the streets for them.  She had just started when I found her.

 

I was under the bridge with her when he came for her.

 

I told him he couldn’t have her. 

 

I stood in front of him between him and the little girl, and said NO. I took a beating, but he left and didn’t take her.  I hid her that night and worked the streets myself to get some money.  The next day, I took her to the bus station, bought her a ticket, gave her all the money, and sent her home. 

 

She’s home now.

 

She was just a kid. I don’t even remember her name.

 

We do not receive on-going government funding for our programs, but instead rely on the generosity of people who care, just like you.  Why not make a special Christmas donation to help us continue our youth street outreach program.  Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Sasha’s Story: Episode Five, The Birth of Hope

Sasha’s Story is an 8 part series running until December 24. To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click   Episode #5 Birth of Hope

 

I met Ken I think nine years ago: it must have been just before I was diagnosed with AIDS. Just at that time I first got off the streets into a place on Bronson. It was hard moving off the streets: I had to learn how to live, learn how to cook, learn how to clean, how to do all these different things, how to keep on going with my life. Now I have four cats and three birds, and my place is clean – you could eat off the floor.

 

It was after you came that I went on a retreat with Sue the outreach worker, and that was when I was baptized.  It was a big white church on a hill – I’d like to go back there some day.

 

I remember that I used to have your [Ken’s] cell phone number and I’d be pretty fried on drugs, but I’d call you and you’d listen and I could talk to you.

 

I remember once that I came to see you all upset and you offered me a juice – NO I said, I don’t want juice.  A coffee? – NO I said, I don’t want a coffee.  Then you said well just sit here a while and have a time out. And you sat down with me and you never said a word. You just sat there. We sat there for 15 or 20 minutes, and then I got up and went to the back and went to sleep.  When I got up, you had a sandwich for me and it was just full of everything! I was sick.  I was so sick then.

Question: Have you ever had opportunity to talk with a street-engaged person? How did that go? 

Next Week: Sasha reveals her heart to help others as she reaches out to people on the streets.

 

Sasha’s Story: Episode Three, Life on the Streets

Sasha’s Story is an 8 part series running until December 24. To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI radio, click   Episode #3 Hard Life on the Street

 

When I first came to Ottawa I started to work the streets right away.  I slept behind the garbage bin on Cooper Street most of the time. That was my spot for the longest time, in the back, right there. I used to work the corners of those streets near there.

I hated myself. 

I tried to bury myself with drugs and tried to hang myself when I first heard I had HIV.

 

I had another spot to sleep on Gladstone.  There was a woman that helped us then. She gave us sandwiches, drinks, socks and clean clothes.  We called her the bag lady. She used to jump into dumpsters and get stuff for us.  She had a wagon, and gave us clean face cloths to clean up. She used to keep us safe behind this building.  I think she got stuff from OIM and passed it along to us.

There was a place downtown where we used to hang out and listen to the music from a store, and people there used to put food for us in the garbage bins.  We used to eat the food out of the garbage.

 

Next week:  Sasha connects with outreach workers from OIM and things take a turn for the better!

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

 

Sasha’s Story: Episode One, First Meeting

Sasha’s Story is an 8 part series running until December 24.To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI Family Radio , click:  Episode #1 The First Meeting

 

I was working the streets in Ottawa, prostituting.  I had dates all night,  from early evening until late, late – and no place to sleep.  I was shooting up then too.

I was diagnosed with AIDS in 2004.

I did have a lot of respect for you. I never used drugs when I was there, in the office.  I had respect when it came to that. I really did. I didn’t agree with it, I didn’t agree with needles on me. I didn’t agree with the drugs on me or… I remember I got mad at the secretary too. I woke up and there was not a soul in there [the office} (laughter) and I flipped right out.  I can still see that poor secretary’s eyes.  She goes like, she had to leave, and then I knew that I could trust you. I knew that everything was fine. I knew that everything wasn’t going anywhere.  I said you should have woke me up! (laughter)  I was out like a light. I was sleeping hard that day, I guess. So I must have been really using the day before, because I was pretty drained.

Ken: So how much drugs were you using then?

Probably about $300 a night.

I remember a few times I was waiting to get into the office, and there was a guy there and I said, ‘You know, I’m going to sleep here,’ and he just looked at me and said, ‘Put your head down girl. Don’t worry, I’ll leave my door open. If I hear anybody, they’re not going to bother you.’  I kept saying to him, “Oh no, please don’t call the cops. I don’t have anything on me or anything like that. I’m not that type of person.’ Sure enough, I sat there. When we went in, I went right to the back office. And I didn’t see daylight until four o’clock in the afternoon when they closed it.’

 

Next Week:    Early life and hard beginnings in the Maritimes.  (Content not suited to young readers)

 A special thank you to CHRI Family Radio!