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Perfect timing…

Molly’s worker called the office late yesterday afternoon.  Molly is one of our many individuals living in Ottawa that struggle to survive off a meager disability cheque as she is in no position to work due to her mental health issues.  Once her rent and utilities are paid, she makes do with less than $200 for the month….for clothing, food, transportation, entertainment, everything!!   Imagine…not even $200 in your pocket to live off of for the next 30 days!

Molly has been wearing the same winter jacket for the past ten years.  She liked it will enough.  It was a wool blend and warm but alas, even wool blend jackets wear out eventually.  And now her worker is looking for an organization to donate a coat so that Molly can stay warm over the winter.

God is so good!  Just this week, a thoughtful donor had brought in a beautiful, down filled, almost new, mid-length woman’s jacket in you guessed it….Molly’s exact size!  To the donor of the jacket, Molly wants you to know how thankful she is.

-Erin

It’s the kind thing to do…

Often times when people hear that I work with the homeless, they like to engage in a conversation about whether or not our society should be responsible for taking care of the homeless. This conversation is generally very predictable…

People talk about the waste of money that goes into social programs. Some complain about supporting people on welfare. Others say that it is up to the individual to pick themselves up by their bootstraps to get off the streets.

 

I try my best to share my insight but the truth is, most adults have already made up their minds about the homeless.

 

Last year, I was asked to speak to a Grade Three class. I was nervous because I wanted to be honest about homelessness but I didn’t want to scare the kids. I tried my best to answer the kids questions without traumatizing them. At the end of my talk I asked the class “Why should we help the homeless? Why shouldn’t we just focus on ourselves and not people we see on the streets?” Immediately a little girl raised her hand and confidently stated “Because it’s the kind thing to do.” As she said this, her peers nodded in agreement.

 

This third grader got it right.

-Moira

 

Taking time to remember

Yesterday, we held our annual memorial service at drop-in to remember those in our street community who passed away in 2012.  Often times we don’t know the legal names of our friends, but as we paused and lit a candle for those 32 people on our list, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was someone that I knew.  It was a sober thought that the candle I was lighting for a name I didn’t know, could be for someone I have been wondering where they had disappeared to…

In those quiet, candle-lit moments, we didn’t need to put a face to the name.  That would be nice, but more important was that we take a moment to recognize that each life is treasured by God and has value.  God knows each face and each name and it was our privilege to take time to remember…

-Kim

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

Happy New Year

What a cold start to January!  As the temperature drops I am very thankful for my warm coat, gloves and most of all, a warm place to go at the end of day.  Working amongst the poor and the homeless, I have become aware of just how many don’t have this ‘privilege’.  A place to call home.  So many of us take it for granted.  We have always had one and will likely always have one, but for many others this isn’t the case.  But a home is more than a place to go at the end of the day, it’s a place of refuge…a place of safety and acceptance.  A home is a place where you belong…If I had one wish for this year it would be that you always have this and that our friends who don’t would find it…

Kim

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!