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What if it was you?

Valentines Day Week – just passed. Kudos to all of our volunteer outreach workers in all capacities: street outreach, drop in, office drop in, prayer partners, donors, those who cook for our event dinners, the ones that donate sleeping bags and all kinds of other goodies that we use as tools to make connections with those who live and breathe on the streets of our city.

Sometimes, just sometimes, our street outreach volunteers might walk their routes in minus 30 degrees, and come back feeling somewhat disappointed because on this cold night, they only saw a couple of street friends. Then the thoughts come, “I wonder if I am making all that much difference anyhow. It doesn’t feel like it tonight at least.”

Stop. Pause.

What if it was you?

You on the streets, maybe even on that one cold night when no one much pays you any attention really, and you feel invisible, forgotten, neglected, and abandoned. Then the recurring thoughts from your past come: thoughts of ‘no good’, you’ll never amount to anything, you are not really worth the effort…

Then an outreach worker shows up with a sandwich, a juice box, but more importantly, a smile, an inquiry about your week, a reminder of something that you said last week or time when you last connected, and some random (or planned) word of encouragement that really lifted your spirits…

How would that make you feel?

For the one’s and two’s and groups on the streets, and the teams of two or three volunteers walking and watching-  add these together and you have two: one, a great deal of difference in someone(s) life; and two, ‘everything’ (and all that entails) to our those who call the streets their home.

A small thing for us maybe, but what if it was ‘you?’ I know it would mean a lot to me.

Ken MacLaren

Danielle’s Story: Episode 3 – A repose in the midst of trouble

“Danielle’s Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!

As soon as I turned 16, my friend’s mother invited me to live with them. It was a very emotional experience finally escaping my family once and for all.

It was a highlight of my life.

I remember laying down in the small bedroom that they let me stay in. They painted a nice cloud on the ceiling and they all were so very sweet.

At the same time, I was worried about how they might treat me. I had these panic attacks, with my heart racing and feeling like I was about to die.

I was confused emotionally, and scared, I guess.

My friends mom was very structured. She taught me about doing chores: doing dishes, laundry and all that. She never yelled at me, included me in the trips to the cottage, included me in all their family activities, helping in the garden.

They noticed that I was struggling with my homework, so they sat down with me at the table and helped me focus. I just wanted to write stories, but they helped me get through school.

 Living with my friend proved to be the safest time in my life that I have ever felt. My grades went from D’s to A’s. 

Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone.

Why not let them know that they are NOT alone?

Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month?

Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Eric’s Christmas Wish

“Eric’s Journey” is a 7 part series running throughout December. To listen to Eric read his Christmas Wish on  Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below

 

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Eric at art group 2015

“This year was an amazing gift from God.

I hope life remains positive for me and for many, many other people.

Smiles and laughter can go a long way, and they have the power to touch and change people’s souls.

Merry Christmas 2015 by Eric Larkin

Christmas card made by Eric, Dec. 2015

What I wish for Christmas is that more people would be able to receive more joy and become more joyful. Usually when you help people, you become more joyful yourself – you are passing the joyfulness along.

My Christmas wish for the art group is that they should enjoy God’s gifts and that more kids on the street could come to the group and enjoy doing art together.

In life, God allows you to go down the right path. The right path really means walking towards God.

God is waiting for each of us to come to Him. He wants to give us joy.

That’s my Christmas wish. Merry Christmas!”- Eric

 

 

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!

 

Shane’s Story, Episode 7: Back to 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!”

Listen to a part of Shane’s story by clicking on the ‘play’ button below, then read the rest of this post:

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The program from Shane’s award ceremony.

I’m back at school. How that happened, my little sister kept bugging me. She dropped out of high school as well and entered a program at Algonquin. She told me it was really easy. I didn’t have to do two years at an ‘alternative school’.  I’d just have to do like just half a year, or maybe just one.

So I went there, and it turned out they had a bursary so it was completely free for me because I had no income.  And because I was in school, I was entitled to a surviving child benefit ‘cause both my parents are dead – good until I’m 25 years old. So there was a bit of money there, ‘cause I could have a grocery for free month, if I do this. I won’t ever have to sit and panhandle any more. I won’t have to sit for five hours to get $40 to buy like the cheapest grocery I could ever do. Or walk all the way to the dollar store to get the cheapest laundry soap or light bulb or whatever.  Now, I just go get it. I haven’t had to panhandle for quite a while now.

School is going well. I’m good at it. I’ve already graduated computer skills. There’s an award ceremony coming up – I’m getting an award for math.

(Awards ceremony Thursday.  I attended and watched Shane get her award.) Go girl!

That was beginner math and I’m in intermediate math now, after 3 months. It’s all at your own speed and every day I hand something in to my teachers. It’s called College Preparation and counts as high school equivalency.  It’s recognized all throughout Ontario.

I’m planning to finish my high school as soon as I can and continue at Algonquin. I am going to be a plumber!

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.

wishing well

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

Ottawa Home and Garden Show. Why?

OIM has been given a booth at the Ottawa Home and Garden Show, March 20 to 23 at the Ernst and Young Centre.  Why?

A friend of the ministry donated this 10’ x 20’ exhibitor’s space so that people who are thinking about renovating, redoing and re-fixing their own homes might take a moment and consider people who don’t have any home at all.

Our booth will have an area where visitors can see some of the art work that our Passion 4 Youth artists have created; we will be showing the 7 minute OIM DVD and also another shorter DVD featuring interviews from three of the youth from the program; we will have a visual aid of a home (on Bristol board) where visitors can buy a brick for a donation of any amount, and we can collect funds for new space (which we desperately need).

Then we’ll top it off with not one, but two (and maybe three) surprises that you can only discover if you come by and have a visit with us.

The Ottawa Home and Garden people are expecting over 20,000 visitors to the show this year, and it is a privilege to represent OIM there.  We have scheduled volunteers and staff for the entire weekend, and you will want to see how this works!

Please consider this your special invitation: ‘Come on down’ and visit us!

Behind the Story…

I noticed ‘Cal’ on several occasions at the drop in, but I never took opportunity to have a conversation with him until this week.

He was a large man with a hint of European blood in his heritage, often coming to complain about some kind of unjust or unfair thing that he noticed others doing at the drop in.  We always took the time to courteously address his concerns, but I’m not sure that any of us have ever taken time to get to know him.

I approached the table where he sat alone, as he always did, and asked if I might join him for a while.  He agreed and we spent the next hour in a meaningful conversation about his life, where he had been, what he had done and what was going on right now.

As had happened so many countless times before when I have taken the time to visit with one of our street friends, I was amazed at how resilient and strong the human spirit can be.  I heard Cal’s story with great interest,  and listened beyond the details to hear another story running parallel with the one he articulated.

The outward story was about his violent home, his unfaithful wife, his distant mother and his hardened and calloused brother.  Injustice, greed, exclusion, partiality and rejection were the dominant themes outwardly, but inwardly there was even more. He had become embittered, jealous, and resentful: his anger was fueled by the traumatic childhood memories, and constant reminders of his failures from his brother.

I asked about his father, the one figure conspicuous by its absence. The response was immediate: a white collar professional that lived a double life.  He had beaten and abused the two boys from their very first memories and earlier – until the sons became big enough to fight back and put a stop to it.  The adjectives he used to describe his dad(apart from the beatings): hideous, unthinkable, sick, perverted, twisted – it broke my heart.

I hear these kinds of stories from most of my street friends frequently.  The details are different but the themes are the same – all the time.  From earliest memories and before, the effects of abuse, neglect and pain now manifest themselves in a broken man or woman at a table at a downtown drop in. Living with this pain all their lives, lacking needed support without even a friend to talk to, they come to us and share.

And us?  We are privileged to hear the stories, listen intently and for some, for the first time ever, demonstrate the love and care of God.

For the remainder of the day, Cal watched me. Constantly. His eyes were on my every move as I visited from table to table and friend to friend. Every time I looked over to him, he was already looking at me.  It takes a great deal of courage to share your life story with another person, and you might imagine what thoughts might be racing through his mind.

Question: Over 7,300 different people stayed in one of our Ottawa shelter systems last year.  How many carry stories like this?  How can we expect people with this kind of background and no support from family or friends to function properly (“Get up and get a job!”) How many times have we offered a ‘quick fix’ to a complex problem?

“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 7: A Real Home for Christmas

Tessa’s Home is an 8 part series running until December 27th.  To listen to the audio backgrounder from family radio 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’s home like now?

 I went from being homeless, to getting into a rooming house, to an apartment.  Now I have a condo.  It’s not the biggest place in the world, it’s not the most fancy, but it’s clean, it’s safe and it’s in a good neighbourhood. I want to get a bigger place, like a townhouse with more space maybe a small yard for the boys… although sometimes I think I don’t want to move away from this place, like it’s small, but it’s the first place I’ve ever had that actually felt like home. 

I don’t go home and sit and worry, I go home, and I’m gonna take a bath and put my robe on and sit on the couch, and play with my kids.  Before when I’d go home, I’d have to eat, and to do that, I’d have to take out dishes, then I’d have to wash the dishes, ‘cause there’s cockroaches all over them, and now, I have a safe haven.

The only other place I feel safe other than home now, is art group.  I don’t have to worry while I’m there.  Now when I go, I take my shoes off, go get dinner, then someone comes along and lifts up my feet, walks through, and sits beside me, and we eat and talk and it feels like home – the way home should be, not like what I’ve had my whole life.  I didn’t get to this point until two months before I had my second child – I was so stressed then, in 2011 – I advertised to try to get a place, but  when the landlord found out I was on ODSP (Ontario Disability Service Plan) I was turned away – every time.

I finally found a place, a two bedroom with hardwood floors, where Tim and me and my two kids live today.  The landlord was willing to rent to me and even gave me a deal.  I couldn’t believe it!  I asked her, ‘Why?’  She said, ‘Because I was you. I was a young mom, and nobody would ever rent to me.  I saw your story, and it made me like, ‘I want to help you.’

All these little pieces that came together make this a home for me now.  Last night I was out, and like, ‘I want to go home, and I was really excited. I was looking forward to it.’ It’s safe and it’s my home.

If I can have my kids and we’re safe, and I don’t worry at night, that’s home.’

Thanks for helping us as we continue to reach out through Street Outreach, Drop in programs and our Passion 4 Youth art program.  Thank you too for your special Christmas donation to help us continue to make a difference in the lives of people on the streets.  Without your support, we could not continue.  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!