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Larissa’s Journey: Life On My Own – Homeless On The Streets

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 fm, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening.

homeless on the streets

I don’t remember when I left the shelter. It just was not working for me. I got a boyfriend, and we slept outside together. We were on the streets for about a year.

The pattern was that I would sleep outside in the spring, summer and fall, and go to a shelter for the winter (usually, although there were some winter nights I would be outside). Each time I went outside I’d be sure to have a new boyfriend. It was not safe to be alone.

Life on the streets is different. Everything you knew before, all your survival skills are not enough to survive. You have to hope that someone will have pity on you and give you money, or one of the drop in centers you go to during the day will have everything ready for you. For example, if the showers are not available, you are not showering.

To be able to have food, water, and safety – which can mean being around the right people – that’s the survival skill, along with camping skills. You have to be able to camp to survive outside or on the streets. How to start a fire, what to do on a snowy night when you’re outside (you can die in your sleep from hypothermia), how to find shelter (I’ve slept under a bridge where it’s the most freezing cold place ever) or just sleep along the side of the road. Freezing to death was one constant worry. In the summer, I’d worry about sleeping somewhere and maybe someone with a knife would find you and there is such danger.

I was homeless for four years, and on the streets for three.

We went to drop ins during the day: we made the rounds to all the drop ins, ‘Out of the Cold’ programs, and any place warm wherever we could  stay for a while. Free food was very important.

I got jumped once, and got beat up badly. I did not call the police because the girl that beat me up sometimes let me sleep at her place.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares her experiences first coming “Off The Streets.” Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. 

 

Larissa’s Journey: Teen Years

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on-air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening.

Larissa’s JourneyNo more foster homes would take me. No more group homes. I had aged out. They asked me where I wanted to live. Since I had always wanted to live in Ottawa, I chose there. They dropped me off at the young women’s shelter, and left me on my own.

I didn’t feel ready to be on my own, but it was a rush – at least at first.  I was so new to everything. At the shelter I could go out whenever I wanted (in group homes you weren’t allowed to do this), and I felt like a free bird. After three weeks though, things were very different.

I had freedom yes, but there were also responsibilities. Before the shelter, anything I did, I got a slap on the wrist, and told not to do that again. Consequences came at the shelter. Anything you did wrong, you had to answer for it and deal with it. It was terrible to be an adult. At sixteen I was forced to be an adult, and I wasn’t ready.

My clothes were always stolen by other girls. I was a bit smaller than everyone else, so tighter clothes on the other girls was very popular. I watched them in my clothes, and I felt like crying. Some of those clothes had memories.

At the shelter, for example, I learned that you couldn’t share a toothbrush. Hygiene was different for me too. I really didn’t know how to look after myself. I still don’t know some things. I don’t do dishes. I used to fill the tub with hot water, soak the dishes in the tub with ½ tub of bleach, and you let them soak. When you can pull them out and there’s no food stuff on it they were ready.

When I was about 16, I went to see my mom, and found her Percoset and OxyContin pills and my mom was doing crack. I used those drugs for about one month before they almost killed me. Every step was like almost floating on clouds. I felt like I was on a big marshmallow. I couldn’t feel the ground under me

I went home to the kitchen and dropped.  I went to the hospital for a couple of weeks. I almost lost one of my kidneys. That was the end of drugs for me. 

I was at the shelter until I was seventeen. I left when I was banned and was homeless.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares what it was like to be living on her own, homeless on the streets. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words.

 

Larissa’s Journey: Early Years in Foster Care

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 fm, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening!Larissa’s Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares her “Early Years”. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

I would wait until my sister was asleep and then I would cry that I could go back to my mom and dad. I wanted to find out who my dad was, but I never did.

When I was 4 ½, I started to go to different homes in foster care. They finally found a home for my sister and me.  My sister and I were made to change our last names to a hyphenated one, because they were maybe going to adopt us, and they didn’t want anyone to know that we were foster kids. I lived there for 9 years.

They didn’t adopt us. My birth mom fought in court that we should not be adopted. The courts never agreed to allow us to be adopted.  When I left home, I was old enough to know what was going on, and I still wanted to go back home.  I felt so all alone.

My sister was with my at this foster home.  I don’t cook. I used to eat eggs and the eggshells too. It all went into the blender. Me and my sister would make concoctions and have an after school snack.

I went to 10 different foster homes after that, until I was 16. It was somebody else’s family, but you were lucky to be there, because it could be far worse. I must have been a really bad kid, because I never stayed at any place for any long time. One place my foster mom threw a knife at me and it stuck into the wall. I called the cops. I even lived in a group home near Spencerville. In that place other kids in the hoe would run away and get rides from truckers.

One home was way out in the country and we had homemade bread, butter, and we had to get wood from outside and bring it in to heat. Mice ran across my bed, and there were rats too. Crazy. I got really sick once and lay on the floor to cool my fever, and they wouldn’t take me to the hospital. I told my social worker but she didn’t do anything about it. Even though I was really sick when we talked, she didn’t do anything.

Some people that had us used us as if we were a trophy when we were in their home.  We’d get gifts to open in front of everyone, for show, then they would return the gifts to the store.

I went to so many different schools, lasted a month maybe. I only have my grade ten. The last school I was at, I lasted only two weeks. I can’t do school any more, I was hit by a bus and hurt my head really bad.  

When I was sixteen, someone from the group home dropped me off at a shelter in Ottawa.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares her “Early Years”. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

 

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.

WEEK 2: 30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds a Day, Celebrating 30 Years

Listen this morning as Executive Director, Ken MacLaren, shares the latest news about the Ministry’s most pressing need:  Office Space. 

Click on the image below and hear Ken speak:

 

Join us TODAY as staff and volunteers pray for office space for this ministry! 

 

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.

 

God of the Ordinary

“Do you have room for one more?” he asked gently.

It was the end of the day at our drop-in and I was getting ready to clean up the Foot Care Station. I had been there for four hours, cleaning and massaging feet. I was tired. My hands ached. “Of course I have room,” I replied. His eyes sparkled with gratitude. I proceeded to fill the foot basin with water, Epsom salts, and soap. He carefully removed his worn shoes and dirty socks, ashamed as he revealed his soiled feet. I pretended not to notice.

Then he soaked his feet and we began to talk.  

We discussed the weather, his ‘job’ collecting empty bottles, and our mutual love of cats.

 Twenty minutes later, his feet had been cleaned, massaged, and clad with a fresh pair of socks. As he got up to leave, he turned to me and said, “y’know, I wasn’t having a very good day, but I just want you to know that you’ve turned my day right around.” He smiled and walked away.

I never saw him again.

Now, 10 years later, I’ve met hundreds from our street community. Yet this brief interaction touches me still. I don’t fully comprehend its impact, but one thing I know for sure:  it has served as God’s reminder that He delights in using ordinary people, engaged in ordinary acts of service to touch people’s lives each and every day.

– Jelica, 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 Hope That Things Can Change

I met ‘Stu’ while on street outreach. Stu has been hardened by the streets and, yet, I know that there is a tender soul underneath.

In our conversations, Stu openly admits to being a heroin addict. He is very pragmatic – almost absolute – in his resolve to continue on this track. I have often been perplexed by the lack of emotion surrounding our conversations, as if a 1950s news reporter was sharing the facts of a distant story. I have tried to impress upon him that there is Someone who cares about him; but these comments were often dismissed without words, almost blocked by his silence.

And, yet, his softer side occasionally slips through.

He has always thanked us and has often dropped subtle hints that he refrains from ‘criminal behaviour’ towards us. It is his way of showing his care and his kindness towards us. I truly believe that there is a wonderful soul under that ‘survival armour.’ I can only pray that through our weekly connections, he will one day open his heart to the hope that things can change.

-Rick, Staff

 

30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds a Day, Celebrating 30 Years of Service

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, in fact – for our ministry’s needs.

Thank you and God Bless.

 

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