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Larissa’s Journey: Thank You! (Part 2)

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series featuring one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program that began on November 26, 2018. We hope it offered insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the program. Today’s blog post is a Special Message that comes directly from Larissa’s on-air presentation on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM (airing 8 am and 5 pm). Thanks for listening!

Larissa’s-Journey

Hi, my name is Larissa.

It’s been great sharing my story on family radio CHRI.

Thanks for listening and following my story – it really helps me to know that there are people out there who really care about kids on the street. I am grateful that there are people who are willing to listen to my story.

If it wasn’t for the support and friendships I gained at OIM and the art group, I would not be in the place I am in today.  Thanks so much for your support. It really has made a difference in my life, and in the lives of many young people.

I hope you have a great Christmas and a great New Year too.

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: My Christmas Wish

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

My Christmas Wish is that someone will pay for my driver’s license so I can get my license. I’d also like a gift card to Costco – they have the best cookies ever! When I was a kid, I used to get up in the middle of the night and empty the cookie jar.

I wish that all the youth in the program would have a safe place to go on Christmas night. I wish that someone would donate like $3 million dollars to the organization and you guys could buy this office place for your own.

For the Innercity Arts program, I wish that we get new supplies for the kids to use. Some of our old supplies are a little rickety now.

I wish that youth who are now on the streets could get the help they need. For those listening, if you are at Tim Hortons and you see someone who might be homeless, buy a five dollar gift card and drop it in his hat. Every homeless person needs to eat.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa expresses her thanks to OIM and all those who support this ministry. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: My Changed Life

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

You know, if it wasn’t for all the organizations who help youth in Ottawa, I would probably be under a bridge, dead.

Without the Innercity Arts program, I would not have the food I needed to survive. When I started at OIM, I only had enough money for one meal a week.

One time my aunt took me to a restaurant, and she bought me a meal. Since I wasn’t used to eating all that much, I took the rest of the meal home, and it was all I had for the last two weeks of the month. Really, I found out that steak doesn’t taste all that good on the second week. But that’s all I had.

OIM would supply me with two meals a week, plus some money to buy more food. Now I had food covered for four or five days.

Since starting in the program…

I have schizophrenia, right. If I don’t have a routine, or schedule that I can follow, I tend to go off my meds, I go buy drugs and drive away nice people out of my life.

I burn bridges.

When I go to the Innercity Arts program, it gives me direction, keeps me stable, and I always have a safe place to go. If there is a delay in my medication, I can always go to OIM and feel safe, comfortable and welcome. It is a safe environment and a very positive one.

OIM gave me hope that no matter what I do, I am going to be OK, as long as I keep at it. OIM taught me that. Before OIM I had no motivation. OIM gave me support, and continues to be a lifeline for my life.

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

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: Off 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.

Larissa’s-Journey

I got off the streets, because I got pregnant.

I stayed at a male rooming house when I was pregnant. Then my partner went off to jail, and I went to Windsor to see my mom. It didn’t go well. She was on crack and kicked me out. She kept her crack pipe behind the garbage pail in the kitchen. Her crack dealer was coming over all the time, and she kicked me out because she was too nervous to deal with things in the right way.

Eventually I got back to Ottawa, and stayed at the family shelter motel. I had my daughter while I was living there. Children’s Aid deemed my place unlivable, so I went to another shelter and my daughter was placed in care. It was hard to give my daughter up, but I couldn’t look after her properly.

Later on I put her up for adoption, but it’s an open adoption, and I can visit her. I don’t visit her, because I think it would be too hard for her. Maybe some day I will. I get letters twice a year with pictures of my daughter.  She is five years old.

I stayed at the shelter until I got Ottawa housing, probably about six months.  I’m still in Ottawa Housing in a one bedroom apartment. They sprayed my apartment for bed bugs and cockroaches some months ago, but yesterday they showed up again. The exterminators don’t know why the problem continues, and they are investigating.

In my first apartment I hit my head on the bathtub – real bad. It was like someone grabbed me and smashed my head against the tub. I fell. I woke up the next day in the tub. I never went to the hospital.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa next shares how she first connected with OIM’s Innercity Arts and Choir programs. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words.

 

 

Volunteer Perspective: Why I Love Outreach

I love street outreach. I don’t go out because of a sense of obligation, or because it’s what ‘good Christians’ do to get on God’s nice list. I really love going out on the streets every week with a bag or two stuffed with things that I can bless our street friends with.

Before I began street outreach I hated the feeling I got in my stomach whenever I saw somebody on the street asking for change. I never knew what to do. I thought, “what if I give them change and they spend it on drugs or booze?”  I felt terrible, mumbling excuses about not having change, just walking by not making eye contact.

One freezing day while downtown during Winterlude (a big winter festival in Ottawa) with my family, God showed me a better way. As we were passing by a young man asking for change below the underpass, I remembered the granola bars and hand warmers we had tucked under my toddler’s stroller. When we offered them to our new street friend he gratefully accepted. A light went on in my head! It was so easy to be a blessing, and each of us received something out of it.

I contacted Ottawa Innercity Ministries and started their Urban Intervention Training, and I couldn’t wait to get out on the streets and start outreach. Shortly after I started going out on outreach our family had taken some major blows. It has been emotionally exhausting at times, but as Joyce Meyers says “When you’re feeling down, go out and do something good for someone else! Be a blessing and you will feel better.” She is so right. It’s impossible to stay in the ‘sorry for myself rut’ when I’m focused on someone else rather than on myself.

Last night our street outreach team met a street friend who asked for prayers for his dad who is dying of cancer. We took turns praying for his dad right there with him on the street. I was shocked and humbled by our street friend’s words when he started to pray. Instead of asking for housing for himself, and provisions of any kind, instead of asking for food, or even healing for his dying dad, he just thanked God over and over for so many things. He thanked God for the privilege of having known so great a man as his father, for friends, for the blessing of knowing what it is to be homeless and to be able to reach out in kindness to his fellow street friends. Wow. How many times have I come to God with a list of requests as long as my arm and tacked on a quick ‘thank you’ at end? I was deeply humbled by this beautiful prayer by such a sweet man.

I love outreach, because since I started I have begun to look at the world differently. I see people in my city differently, I see myself differently, and I see God differently. Thanks be to Him.

Blessings,

Jen

 

If you are interested in learning more about Street Outreach or our Urban Intervention Training (winter program starting Jan. 30th) contact our office at 613-237-6031, or email us at ottawainnercity@rogers.com. 

“I brought Christmas”

Reviewing our current ‘Christmas trend,’ I see a big build up leading to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, celebrating the birth of our Saviour on December 25th, with an almost unbelievable and instantaneous shift to Boxing Day (and week) sales and super deals, and now to what is (this year at least) a very cold and frigid journey with ‘old man Winter’ bringing temperatures (with wind chill) to     -39°celcius. Whatever happened to Jesus? The ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ (not the partridge and the pear tree version) is actually a season designed to continue the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

In keeping with this, I want to tell you the story, ‘The Christmas Hampers’.  When I was having lunch with Tessa (OIM’s Christmas Story – still in our archives on the blog page) before we went to do our taping at CHRI, she told me their little family of four didn’t have enough money to have a Christmas dinner.  Afterwards I made a call to a partnering church that was going to collect dinners and deliver hampers and asked if there was enough for another hamper delivery. They said yes.

To make a long story shorter, we obtained Christmas dinner hampers for four family ‘units’ made up of street kids from our art group who had capacity to cook, and Moira our youth outreach worker and I delivered them on December 21. It was an amazing day!

We mostly think of giving hampers to families who would have a mediocre Christmas and a meager Christmas dinner. Folks who are well-deserving, maybe having difficulty making ends meet, who can’t afford lavish gifts and so on. It’s like boosting something small to make it better.

This was not that.

This was giving a hamper to folks who have no Christmas at all.  None.  No tinsel. No gifts. No ornaments. Not even a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. One of the places we visited, a bachelor apartment, you could sit on the bed, turn on the stove and run water in the small sink without getting up.  No decorations or anything.  Nothing.

Something happened when those hampers came into those dark, dismal, ill furnished rooms. Everything changed.  Time stood still as kids rampaged through the cardboard hamper box with squeals, shouts and exclamations of joy, appreciation and, well, it was just like Christmas.

It was one of the most heart-warming experiences ever!

At the first home, there were a few guys who were super happy to get the hamper, and invited us in for ‘a tour’ of the place(!). Two ‘families’ invited us in for tea or hot chocolate, but sorry, no marshmallows.

I dropped Moira off and proceeded over to Hull to deliver the final hamper before heading home.

I located the residence and sent a text to the couple with the ten month old infant. I sat in my car and sent this text:

“Hi guys. Ken here. I’m in your driveway.  I brought Christmas.  Come on out.”

I sent the text and then stopped.

I stared in amazement at what I had written: “I brought Christmas”.

A flood of emotion cascaded over me as I recalled the other three hamper deliveries and what that meant to those families.  If we had not done that, there would be no Christmas. They wouldn’t just have a watered down, or ‘small Christmas’, they would have nothing.  No Christmas.  Nada.

In my mind’s eye I saw how these kids were just so like the kids in our lives on Christmas morning: the joy, the surprise, the magic and more – the feeling of being loved, the sense that someone cared about them, they weren’t forgotten.

Thoughts rushed my mind:  ‘No, it’s not me.  It’s the church committee. No.  It’s the many people who bought groceries enough to distribute to 80 families.  No, it’s more than that.  We all had a part in this.  It’s the supporters, the prayer warriors, the volunteers who help make OIM happen, who give and give and give, and maybe never see first-hand, the fruit of their labours.’

This is so much more than me delivering hampers.  It’s about your Christmas contribution.  It’s about your donation, your prayer, your caring and love for the broken, the rejected and the forgotten.

But this Christmas there were a few who weren’t forgotten.  A few who felt the true meaning of Christmas – of giving, of sharing – the message, ‘I love you.’

It’s still the best message ever!  Happy New Year!

A Special heARTfelt Thursday: Sneak Peek!

P4Y Art Show Collage 2013-11-191

Texture, colour, pattern, meaning…

OIM is excited to extend an invitation to friends and community members for the up-coming Passion 4 Youth art show.

The Passion 4 Youth artists have been hard at work this Fall to create pieces that explore the idea of violence and social structures. Each artist has created an art piece that represents a major structure in our city that has had a positive or negative influence on their lives. From the perspective of a street-engaged youth, we will be looking at the Children’s Aid Society, the criminal justice system, financial institutions, immigration, the media, health facilities, and many more.

We encourage you to come out. Doors will be open 7:00pm-9:00pm, and there will be a suggested $5 donation at the door. Light refreshments provided.

Tabaret Hall, Room 112, uOttawa–550 Cumberland St. 

Everything I Have

vaccuum

“It happened again. I have to leave,” she told me in a panic.

Laura had called me several times that week. She was always in a panic because of the abusive partner she was living with. Things were getting progressively worse for Laura, but she had never before talked about leaving.

This time was different. Laura no longer felt safe.

She knew she would have to leave, yet there was nowhere to go. No family to turn to. No friends to crash with. Laura had been off the streets for over a year, and though she was glad to be indoors she felt like the streets would be safer than staying in her abusive relationship. Laura kept telling me she had to leave.

However, Laura was worried about her stuff – the processions she had collected throughout the year. She knew she couldn’t carry them all with her on the street, and had nowhere to store them. She asked if she could store some of her stuff in the art room. I agreed, and we planned to meet there later.

What I didn’t know, is that Laura did not own luggage, she had nothing to put her possessions in, no bags or boxes. So, she improvised. She fit as much as she could into a small laundry cart. Then, she looked for something else with wheels…..the vacuum cleaner. She attached a laundry hamper full of her stuff to the vacuum cleaner using packing tape. Once everything was packed and secured, she left the apartment and started walking to the art room.

I want you to think about how tired she must have felt dragging these heavy loads with her. How embarrassed she must have felt, as people looked at her drag the vacuum cleaner. Then imagine, walking with this baggage for over 2 hours. That’s how far her apartment is from the art room. And with no bus tickets or car, walking was her only option.

She arrived at the art room completely exhausted. We packed her stuff away and she thanked me. She said it was a relief knowing that her stuff would be safe.

She told me that one of the items was a stone memorial from the grave of her parents – her most precious procession.

It was heartbreaking to see Laura in such a state; still I was happy that if nothing else, she had the art room as a special space where she could store her prized processions. I felt honored she put her most valued possessions in my trust. When you have very little, those few things represent a whole lot; enough to make it worth a trip with vacuum in tow.

~Moira, OIM Staff

How We Manage

“I figured out where all the Food Banks are, so I go there first. Then I can figure out what I need and go get it at the Dollar Store. Then I go to Bulk Barn and get some candy.”

We had been discussing minimum wage, and volunteers and youth alike had bad jobs to talk about. Minimum wage hasn’t always been over $10, so we swapped stories about $7 jobs and under-the-table work we had been paid to do by uncles and friends. As much as it was a discussion about money it was a discussion about priorities and value.

What do I want?

What do I need?

Can I live on this?

One of the youth was sharing their experience as a clerk in a retail store. They explained how they had been taught to balance the books at the end of the night, figure out which cash was short, and count-out the safe before heading home. They were very proud of everything they had learned, and looked forward to eventually becoming a key-holder. Key-holders get paid $0.40 extra, which, as they pointed out, is a lot of money. We did some quick calculations and figured out that they would be able to buy milk more often, and other things like hot dogs.

$0.40 x 25 hours of part time = an extra $10 a week

That’s an extra $40 a month or $480 a year

When I was younger I didn’t think $10 was very much, but now I live on my own I realize just how much you can buy with $10 if you spend it wisely. Now I am always learning ways to make that little bit go just a bit farther, and some of the best teachers I have are my street-friends from OIM.

I am continually impressed with the ingenuity and thriftiness of our street-friends. Many of our street-friends may struggle with delayed gratification and addictions, but each individual is trying their hardest to make their money go its farthest.

More than anything it is a discussion about value. I had a young man explain to me what he needs to do to visit his family—how long he needs to pan-handle, where he needs to do it, and what his average earnings would be. He then explained how long that money would last, where he would need to go next to make more, and exactly what he was using it for. He didn’t need a spread sheet to understand what he had, what he needed and what he could get—he was keenly aware of his financial situation, his priorities and the value of money.

These kinds of interactions make me question my own priorities and values, and my understanding of finances. I pray we can grow a culture of stewardship focused on understanding and questioning these two ideas, living determined to understand our financial situation and not to be overwhelmed. It feels as though ‘managing’ life seems to be less about having much as much as understanding what you have.

 

 

By Selina

OIM Staff