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She is Not Unknown

 

You see her every day on your way to work. Usually she is sitting at Tim Horton’s or resting on a bench.  She is hard to miss – a small woman, probably less than 100 pounds – wearing many layers of clothing which make her look even tinier. She is small but strong; carrying several bags as she walks quickly down the streets. 

You have heard her mumbling to herself, or occasionally yelling at nobody in particular.

One day, you don’t see her at the Tim Horton’s.  As the weeks pass, you wonder where she has gone…is she safe? Has anyone else noticed? You worry about the fate of this unknown woman.   

But she is not unknown. 

On the streets, she is known as La Petite Joanne – a kind and generous woman. She often shares her money with panhandlers and offers them her food. In turn, others on the streets look out for her and protect her.

By her family, she is known as Jocelyne. She grew up on the East coast, one of 10 children. She graduated high school and went on to become a secretary. Her career brought her to Ottawa, where she worked on Parliament Hill. She was proud of her work, and her family was proud of her too. It’s hard to imagine this woman, the woman muttering to herself on the streets, working for the federal government on Parliament Hill.  But that is how swiftly and drastically schizophrenia  can change a life. Her family remained loving and supportive. Although far away, they spoke to her often, visited, provided financial resources and attempted to get her medical care.

One day, her family received a call from Jocelyne. She was in hospital after having some health issues. During that call she recited the Lord’s Prayer with passion…

“Notre Père, qui es aux cieux, que ton nom soit sanctifié…”

Days later, they received word Jocelyne has passed away in hospital. They brought her back home to the east coast, where she was mourned by those who knew her as sister, aunt and friend.

Indeed, she was not unknown or forgotten.

At the funeral, the eulogist beautifully articulated this by saying “I am absolutely convinced that God knew Jocelyne….and I am equally convinced that she knew Him.”

At OIM we knew her too. And we shall miss her.

 

Moira, Youth Outreach Worker 

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.

Navigating the Systems

Blog - Navigating the SystemsSometimes our youth go into crisis. We need to be there for them and help to navigate the systems in place. Sometimes these systems are daunting. When dealing with mental health issues there is a lot of fear that you won’t be heard; that you won’t be taken seriously; that you won’t be respected. We have had both good and bad experiences with these systems. We are always looking for more effective and reliable ways to get our youths’ needs met. There are some great supports in place, but depending on the youth, they may or may not qualify. Our biggest obstacle in finding help for the young people with which we work, is their age range. Because of the age range from 16 up to 32 there are many supports they do not qualify for, especially for those after the age of 21.  While identified as ‘adult’ many have had enough trauma in their lives to stunt their normal emotional and social development. So we continue to look for new avenues of help.  Another obstacle for us, is the factor of addictions. Because there are almost no therapies available for concurrent disorders (i.e., someone with both an addiction and mental health disorder), our young people are told to take care of their addiction issues before they will be seen for their mental/emotional issues. This is very frustrating as you can rarely separate the two. It is our experience that most youth with addictions are actually self-medicating for emotional/mental issues; both of which need to be addressed at the same time.   At the ‘Passion 4 Youth’ art program, we create a safe space for our youth to express themselves while being respected and acknowledged. We continue to do our best to navigate these systems and hope, in the meantime, that our systems will continue to evolve in their responsiveness to the very complex needs of our street-engaged youth.

Dana

Youth Outreach Worker

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.

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A sculpture of a well Shane made at art group called “Space Change”.

Shane’s Story, Episode 2: 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!

Click on the play button to hear a part of her story, then read the rest below:

Difficulties at home were reflected in school. They would put Children’s Aid on our case all the time because I was depressed.  I was always acting out and they (school) blamed my dad and thought he was abusing me. They come constantly because I was depressed and my step family would yell at me, ‘cause Children’s Aid would come over and they’d say it was all my fault. Whatever… I hit a couple of them (the kids). I smashed them. Eventually you don’t care. What are you going to do? Hit me? Hit harder? Whatever… I’ll just hit you harder.

I got beat up a couple of time by my siblings. They took karate lessons and they didn’t have to hit you, they would put some move on you and you’re in excruciating full body pain and you can’t even move. If I had a chance to slug them before they grabbed me, I’d try. Try to get them in the teeth. That’d get them away from me for a little bit at least. Or it will get someone’s attention.

I got used to it. I’m just small, but feisty. Then even though I’d try, but eventually I just couldn’t get them back any more.

I started getting really desperate.

It got to the point where people were getting broken bones because of the fights we were getting in.

I started drawing pictures at school, really morbid pictures. To the point that my teachers started getting worried about my mental health. They started calling in… I remember people came into my school and they’d ask me weird questions about the pictures: Why is it all shackled? Why is it all beaten? Why is it dead? “I don’t know it just is…” I got a lot of attention, and it got me out of class. They’d always come during school  I had to go to another room, where they would have chocolate milk. Sometimes I would get a chocolate milk. That was a good day.

My brother got kicked out first – he had a guns, and switchblades and drugs in the house, and he ended up getting kicked out for having a little marijuana plant in his room. Then my sister, she got pushed out.  They made life so bad for her that she just left. Picking on her all the time. Excluding her. Her anger was pretty bad, and they were afraid of her I think. She was about 17 or so.  Then it was my time.  She (my step mom) was working down from the oldest, then it was my turn.

If you were hungry and went to the kitchen to get food, you were scolded. All of that food was hers and not for us. Even if I just wanted a sandwich – no, not allowed. I would sneak it, and if I got caught, I was in trouble. I was about 12 or 13 and I was starting to stand up to her.

She couldn’t hit me then, but she would take my things and put them in the garage. I would go looking for my shirts and they would be in a pile on the floor in the garage. She yelled, ‘Go clean those up!”  She knew I hated the garage too, ‘cause it was full of spiders.  The spiders would be mixed in with my shirts. I was scared, there might be 10 spiders mixed in the shirts.

I knew I wasn’t nice. I didn’t get treated nice, and I wasn’t nice. Don’t come talk to me or I will hit you.

School was horrible.. I got into all kinds of fights, I would even go after the teachers. They would have to expel me. I would come in and swear at them, I would draw swastikas on my note book and that would get me in trouble. They would come after me and I would put on a little riot, whatever I had to do. They would make me feel bad, and then I would go out and make them feel bad.

I think I was 15 when I was taken out of my home and put into Children’s Aid care, a foster home. I’d go hostile on my step mom to the point that I tried to set her car on fire. I started a website to get people to like kill my older step brother – anything I could do.

Finally they took me. ‘You’re out of control. Come with us.’ And they stuck me in a house full of people that I really didn’t have any business needing to know who they were.

It was an all girl house.

I had one friend at school. A chick who was aggravated with life and really hostile.  Other girls would run from us.

I was mad. Everything made me mad.

Then when I turned 16, I signed the waiver and I went out on my own.

 

“Tessa’s Home” Episode 8: Merry Christmas and Thank you

Tessa’s Home is an 8 part series running until December 27th.  To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI, click below. Miss previous episodes? Click “Recent Posts” on the right sidebar.

Please help us tell Tessa’s story through your social media connections, Facebook and Twitter. Comments welcome! #TessasHome

 

Tessa tells her story…

What I wish for Christmas is that people would come together and realize how much we need each other.

I want to thank OIM for being there when I needed them; for listening when nobody else would; for being exactly what I needed when I needed it – whether it like it was freezing cold and they had hot chocolate, sandwiches or socks; or when I was upset, taking the time to talk to me, and eventually helping shape me into somebody I want to be more, and to give me the opportunity to work alongside them; even seeing where I came from. Not a lot of people would let me do that. 

A lot of people, when they learn what happened to me and where I came from, just walk away.  I’ve had people completely cut ties with me over that.  They (OIM) don’t judge and they brought me back to God and I feel like if they weren’t there, I’d still be in a pretty dark place.  They brought life into my life and I’m thankful for that.

When I think of OIM, everything comes into my head: Moira, Jay, you, the office, the art group, the outreach – everything – especially the people.  They were there.

To the donors: no matter what you give, everything has been so helpful because without everybody’s efforts as a whole, we would not have what we have.

At art group we’re at 20 youth capacity. Even we are over capacity with 23.  I asked Moira, ‘Where does the money come from?’ She goes, ‘Jesus’.  What that translated into my mind, was it came from the people God motivated to donate, and so are doing the work of Jesus. When I thought about it, all these people coming together… without them, we probably wouldn’t be there.

I just wanna close in saying, ‘A great big thanks for all you do’.  Merry Christmas.

From Tessa’s Home in her little apartment/condo, from her home with the kids in the art group (and on their behalf), and from the Staff and Volunteers at OIM, from our home to yours,

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

Donate a special Christmas gift today to help us continue to reach out to young people, just like Tessa! Click ‘Donate Now’.

“Tessa’s Home” Episode 3: Life on the Streets, Shelters and Drugs

Tessa’s Home is an 8 part series running until December 27th.  To listen to the audio backgrounder from CHRI, click below.

 

Miss previous episodes? Click “Recent Posts” on the right sidebar.

Please help us tell Tessa’s story through your social media, Facebook and Twitter. Comments welcome! #TessasHome

 

Here is Tessa’s story in her own words….

One guy took me in (and also molested me), let me stay at his house actually burned my hair with Axe hair spray and a lighter.  That’s when I first started wearing a Mohawk.

From there I went to a shelter and then I got a ride to Ottawa.  I stayed at one shelter for maybe a month before I learned that if you lived outside, you didn’t have to listen to anybody. I didn’t like the rules they had there (at the shelter).

Soon after I started living outside, I was smoking and using marijuana.  After living on the streets for about a month, someone asked me if I had ever tried Ecstasy. I lied and said, “Yea, totally.” I started doing hard drugs more and more.  I was addicted to ‘uppers’ or Ecstasy (most of the time) or anything that made me feel happy. It took away the pain.

I was abused all my life. From the outside we lived like a happy family, but behind closed doors it was really bad.  I could never remember a time when I was as happy as I was when I was on that drug: it was like all of your bad feelings go away, and I was doing it every single day for a while.

After about 3 years of sleeping outside, couch surfing, and staying at shelters, but mostly on the street, I went for a visit to my “family”. I’d like to say ‘home’ but it never really was – not at all.  The reason I say it like this, “Family”, is because to this day, I consider the bonds I made with other youth who experienced the pain and heartache as I did, to be stronger, than those of my own blood. While visiting, I ended up seeing my lifelong abuser for the last time, and it was not a happy memory. I remember the very last words he said to me, were “take those stupid things out of your face, and grow some hair, then I’ll respect ya you freak!” I simply replied, “Love you too Dad,” and he drove away. Two days later, at around 3 a.m., the police came to my mother’s door to tell us my father had been in an accident, and did not survive.

I didn’t feel sad that he was gone. I tried to act sad, like everybody, but I didn’t.  I went in and finally was able to say everything that I wanted to say to him. The only thing I’m sad about today, is that I never had a chance to confront him to let him know how I felt as an adult.

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