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Drop In to our Drop In, New Year’s 2011

A sunny bright first week of January and many greetings of “Happy New Year” were offered from our friends at the drop in.  New Years is just so much better than Christmas.

In addition to the beautiful day, some of our folks were only just receiving their cheques from December (some glitch in the matrix of ODSP/OW) on this day, so it was doubly beautiful (maybe more).

Our numbers are down a bit because of the cheque thing (a typical first of the month pattern), but we have given up trying to estimate our effectiveness through the number of people served a meal.  Instead we count the number of positive interactions our volunteers have with our street friends – more than ‘the Big three’ of news, weather and sports. 

Downstairs, there’s a couple of euchre games on the go, people visiting with each other, relaxed, informal – a nice place to hang out. 

Let’s ‘drop in’ on a few of my encounters with our friends:

I met Bill who is 19 years old and his sister Chaucery (or so I thought, until Bill told me it was his mom), and we chatted.  Two years ago he ran from a fight only to have a severe stab wound in the skull: “See the mark?” he says as he points to the top of his head.  We talked of a few things, but he told me he didn’t want to talk about his father, one time Chaucery’s partner.  Then, after about twenty minutes,   he brought up the topic of his father, and how he had been so severely mistreated.  Usually, among people who have been mistreated as children it is their fathers who have been the primary causes of abuse.  He didn’t want to talk about it, but then he did.  He had been diagnosed with some condition of mental illness (before the knife wound and somehow associated with his father), he explained, and lives with his mom.  Their hydro had been cut off, and it was a good thing I wasn’t part of the blanket-blank agency, or they would have some choice words for me.  They were going to make it, the mom said, because hydro was not their heat source, and their landlord had allowed them to have an extension cord running to a power outlet in the hall.  “We have lots to be thankful for,” Bill reminded his mom.

On the way to the coffee urn, Wayne came in and asked if he could have a hamper to take home with him (before the appointed time for hampers) because the service technician was coming to his new place to hook up a phone that afternoon.  Wayne has undergone a remarkable recovery from alcohol, drugs and the street scene.  He has been clean for over a year now, and has every intention of continuing to improve his life.  After many, many attempts to obtain housing, he now has a place of his own.  I marvel at what he has accomplished against overwhelming odds, as well at his determination to keep on the ‘straight and narrow’.

 Jelica, our managing director, put together a few groceries, while Wayne showed us pictures of his two daughters and grandchildren.  “Wow”, I said, admiring the photographs and smiling, “You don’t look it, but you truly are a rich man.”  He quickly nodded assent and told a condensed version of the powerful reconciliation he recently had with one of his daughters – after being estranged from her for many, many years.

“Thank you so very much for the food,” he said, and put the pictures carefully in the front part of his knapsack, and the groceries in the back.  “I’m off to catch the 12:10 bus.”

As he climbed the stairs out of the building, my eyes met Jelicas’, and there was a simultaneous sigh of gratitude and wonder at this example of a transformed life.  More than words are needed to grasp the deep significance of what was happening all around us. 

It’s all a gift from God, and gifts of God.

These kinds of encounters happen all the time, each one purposefully and intrinsically orchestrated by our Heavenly Father:  each one a display of His splendor .  Mother Theresa coined it well when she said, “We see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

You should find out how you could be a part of this somehow.  Happy New Years!

Add a Homeless Person to Your Christmas List – II

Merry Christmas!  Just a quick note today, on the eve of Christmas eve, to invite you to do a last minute gift purchase – for someone experiencing homelessness – for someone you don’t even know.  Click on the banner above for more info.

AND, if you would visit www.chri.ca, you can listen to the podcast of the interview I did with the Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson.  This is not a political maneuvering or ‘nail him to the post’ interview, but an opportunity to hear our Mayor’s heart regarding the less fortunate in our city: how at an early age, he learned to care, what he is doing now, and some ideas how citizens of Ottawa (and beyond) can become involved.

Take opportunity today and make a donation.  We’ll be sure it gets to where it’s needed most!

The Gift of Christmas (volunteer social dec. 2)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders, And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9; 6, 7

The Gift of Christmas is all wrapped up in Jesus, is Jesus, and is the meaning of Christmas.  His message is the gift that keeps on giving as the gospel unfolds: cradle to cross, Jew to Gentile, one person told another person, who told yet another, they told somebody who in turn told someone else, who that person told someone else and so on to today, and the gift continues to unfold to the world.

You are the gift.

Drop In: I stood at the doorway to the sanctuary and watched: Rudy just finished cutting someone’s hair and asked if he would like prayer; a volunteer doing foot care right in front of me; sounds of Carolyn and Wendal distributing clothing upstairs and beside the stairs a staff spoke quietly with one of our street friends, behind me in the sanctuary, two more foot care volunteers massaged and soothed tired feet and Clara worked her touch care on tired aching backs… and I marveled at the gift unfolding…

Youth Art Show: in the moment I stood back and surveyed the room: young street artists, volunteers, donors, partners, prayer warriors and intercessors all there.  Many of the kids didn’t recognize the gift but each knew there was something special happening right in front of them.  I sensed the Giver of gifts painting on the canvas of human hearts, and it was a powerful moment.  All the work, the people, the prayers, the gifts working through His people… and the gift was unfolding…

Years ago on Street Outreach, Steve and I peered into a loading dock in the Byward Market and made out the figures of two small girls.   The one that spoke told us they just arrived from Montreal, that they were both sixteen, and were OK.  We shared what we had, noted references to places where they could get help, and in some way, I sensed that Steve and I were the gift, unfolding…

Sparky had taken refuge in the Laundromat near our office and I went in to sit with him for a while.  He was pretty intoxicated and did not do too well hiding the bottle of cooking sherry from the Laundromat overseer lady.  We had a conversation, and I stayed a bit longer.  When I got up to leave, Sparky told me in a very clear, impassioned plea, “No.  Please stay with me,” and for a moment I could not tell whether I was the gift or if he was, just unfolding…

Years ago at a downtown drop in, William, who was at times subject to alcoholic seizures, tottered and swayed, pointing his finger in my face and prophesying, “The Lord is blessing you.  The Lord is blessing this place and what you do,” and he became the gift, telling me we were the gift.  And it keeps on unfolding…

We come alongside one another as the gift unfolds through us, in us and through our street friends- in whom the gift is birthed, delivered and manifested.  And we thank God for each one.

You are the gift unfolding, Christ in you, the hope of glory, and I watch it all the time.  And I count it as a gift and privilege from the Gift Giver Himself to come alongside you and walk and work with you as we together we watch the gift unfold.

There is a tradition in some churches to speak over the communion elements of bread and the wine, to say, “The gifts of God for the people of God”, and the response comes, “Thanks be to God.”

Here tonight, in and with each other, I present each of you to all of you, and say, “The gifts of God for the people of God,” and we say together, “Thanks be to God.”

Youth Art Show II

The evening the kids have been preparing for had finally arrived.  It was time for the ‘Passion for Youth’ art show at Dominion Chalmers.  There was sufficient space for each artist to choose five pieces of their work to show, and it was a challenge for some to decide.  Hustle, bustle, the staging of sofas and tables from the art room on the second floor, the preparation of the interactive art table where guests could be creative, coffee, tea and snacks set near the entrance all combined to accelerate the excitement and anticipation.

In the end, all was readied.  The stage was set, the players were ready, last minute adjustments to the easels were complete, the live entertainment arrived ( Max and August), and the mood was  set. 

Guests enjoyed the ambiance, the artists and the art work.  Ahh, the art work.  For some of our guests, the time had finally come when the art work that was ‘for display only’ at our auction, was finally available for bidding.  There were pieces of art work that captured hours and hours of devotion, had become a  labour of love, and were now revealed to the public.

But there was something here far greater than what initially captured the senses.  There was a clear demonstration of a Master Artist at work with figures of moving clay.

The real demonstration of art was that of the artists themselves.

Initially, many of these youth never had any idea that they could create anything beautiful at all.  The images of childhood that are so familiar to us were either non-existent or so overshadowed with such painful memories that it would have been better not to have had them at all.  Years of repeated abuse served to reinforce their belief and image they would never amount to anything.  They were told as young children that they were losers, worthless  and discarded and treated as less than animals.  They had eaten from the garbage bins, slept in the bins or wherever they could, experienced cold and discomfort that are beyond description.  They were survivors, despite it all.

Tonight was different.  People they didn’t even know told them over and over again, that they had created something beautiful.  So beautiful in fact that they would like to buy the items and remember the artists.  The youth were the ones encouraging the younger guests and showing them how to hold a paint brush, how to mix the colors, how to ‘let themselves go’ and be creative.  Photos were taken.  The young artists were congratulated for work well done, praised for their choices of color or texture, and one small bit at a time, I believe some changes began to occur.

Maybe the voices of the past were wrong.  Maybe I’m not useless, after all, someone likes what I have created.  Maybe there is something good about me.  Maybe this is not the end.  Maybe, just maybe, I can do something good.  Maybe there is something good about me.

That was the real exhibition of art.  It wasn’t the paint on the canvas, or the music that filled the air: it was living, breathing, young people experiencing hope and a promise for the future.  And, maybe, just maybe, that might be enough to change a life.

Moved with Compassion

Returning to the office in the early evening to gather some materials I had forgotten, I discovered the first of the evening outreach workers at the back preparing for the night.

Each weeknight teams of trained volunteers  prepare knapsacks full of sandwiches, drink boxes, personal care items and other ‘treats’ which might be available, in preparation for their venture into the downtown core.  These items are important in that they are ‘immediate felt need’ items, but are more important as they serve as the means to make initial connections with people on the streets.  We use them as tools to introduce ourselves to our friends, and they also help us continue relationships with those whom we have already met. It means something to us to be able to provide a sandwich, snack and juice box to someone who has not eaten for some time.

Hamish was in the back store room area of the office, considering and selecting things to put in the outreach bags which bear the OIM logo.  Here was a faithful worker who was moved with compassion to those who are in need.

It wasn’t always like that for Hamish.  There was a time, he told me, that he ‘just walked around them’ on the sidewalk, and not give them a second thought.

Now he seeks them out and is compelled to help in any way he can.

With his eyes moist with tears, he told me about the disparagement of giving some of these same supplies to two of our street friends, while at the same time noticing people less than thirty feet away, sipping wine and enjoying the very best of Ottawa’s cuisine and night life.  ‘It just isn’t right’, he told me.

He never thought he would be doing this; never thought about those on the streets at all until he came ‘just to see’ what was happening at our Urban Intervention Training.  As he came to a deeper understanding of some of the stories of our street friends, his heart was touched and he knew he would have to do something.

 His life has been changed, enriched and blessed as he reaches out to those who call the streets their home.  He never expected to be an outreach worker, but he is thankful that he has opportunity to do something for those who are without.

What about you?  Ready for some change in your life?

Thanksgiving Drop In Style

Just after the Thanksgiving holiday.  Wednesday drop in.  Friend after friend came up to me and spoke with me very candidly about how much they appreciated what we were doing at the drop in.

Billy Bob told me that last week, he was given six eggs!  What a blessing for him!  He said he budgeted the eggs on a daily basis and they lasted all week.  He couldn’t believe that we would give out fresh eggs.  While he was speaking I was thinking about his complimenting us when, about two and a half months ago, we were able to include a pound of ground beef with the food hampers.  He recounted to me on several occasions since then, on how he had measured the amounts very carefully, and had fresh hamburger for the entire week.  THEN, Billy Bob reminded me of the same thing I was thinking – and again, how very much he appreciated this.

Jeremy walked by, stopped, turned around and told me how much he appreciated all we did at the drop in: the friendly volunteers, the hot meal, haircuts… everything was so great.  He lowered his voice and quietly said, “This is one of my favourite places.”

Susan came up to me directly and thanked me profusely for having so many fresh vegetables to hand out: tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers (donated by a local produce store and distributed to our guys the next day).  She said this was the only place to come and get some fresh vegetables – which she could not afford on her limited budget.

I went upstairs and sat and talked to Brent while he got his feet washed (we do this regularly: soak, massage, rub with lotion and ‘clean sock’ those guests who enjoy this service) and visited.  I noticed the volunteer massage his feet and also the shin and calf, up to the knee.  “What’s this new service?” I queried.  Brent quickly explained this extra service was such a blessing, since he was diabetic and had poor circulation in his legs.  The caregiver smiled and said, “I do this for Brent each time he comes.”

While she was giving this explanation, Peg came up to me, dressed in loose fitting sweat pants and sweater.  “LOOK! LOOK at my back.  SEE? See? My spine is straight” she exclaimed.  I looked as hard as I could, but I really could not see anything.  “See?” she asked as she directed my attention to the lower part of her back with her hand, “See?  It’s straight!  Just after two treatments with Dr. Payne!”

“Oh, so you have been to visit our chiropractor?” I asked.  “You are feeling much better, are you?”

“Oh yes!  ALL my pain is gone and my back is straight now.  Can you see it?  It’s straight,” again directing my vision with a sweep of her hand up and down her lower back.

Our friends/guests who come to receive our services are so very thankful and grateful for these seemingly small bits and pieces of service that we are able to provide.

It’s such a small thing for us, but such a great gift to them!

At Thanksgiving and throughout the year, we are thankful TOGETHER for the many gifts we are able to receive and enjoy!

Live and Silent Auction – the details

Generally speaking the needs on the street are increasing and for many charities across Canada, there are dwindling resources as people are faced with financial crises of various sorts.  We are hosting a fund raising auction that I would like you to attend.  The details are in the rotating banner above, but if you are interested, I would like to share with you some of the events of the evening:

Greg Paul, well-known speaker and author will be our guest speaker.   Greg is from Sanctuary, Toronto, and in addition to his role as a pastor of a church in the downtown core, has authored two best sellers: God in the Alley and The Twenty Piece Shuffle.  Another book will soon be released.  Greg is a member of the National Roundtable on Poverty and Homelessness and a member of Street Level.

Dave Smith, a renowned philanthropist, businessman and entrepreneur in Ottawa has agreed to be our auctioneer.  Dave has a heart for youth, and has founded the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.  Additionally, Dave has been instrumental in the process of bringing a residential detox program to Ottawa.

In addition to over 150 Silent Auction items, we have a number of live auction items.  The live auction items will include, but not limited to the following list:

  1. The Rideau Canal Story – a set of 8 customed framed prints celebrating the 150th anniversary of the building of the Rideau Canal, value $1400
  2. Stradivarius Violin (copy) & Two framed prints: Damsels with Stringed Instruments, value $1,000
  3. The OLD WEST Collection: 26 volumes, faux leather covers, time-life series, value $600
  4. Lunch with the Chief Vern White.  Value: priceless!
  5. Romantic Getaway #1, one night at the Lord Elgin, $100 coupon from the Keg, a camera, bath set.  Value $410
  6.  Romantic Getaway #2, two nights at the Auberge de mon petit chum, Wakefield, $100 coupon le Moulin Restaurant Wakefield, Book “Celebration of Love”, special “Basket of Healthy Chocolate”.  Value $500
  7. Big Girl’s Special, One month membership tanning package, Nine West designer sunglasses with Coach case, a gift certificate for cut, style and highlights, and SPA bath set.  Value $650
  8. Big Boy’s Special, One hour plane ride over Ottawa in Cessna 150, Complete car cleaning, DeWalt heavy duty drill, 40 pc socket set, 5 Guy tools, Jack Astor Restaurant Certificates, Haircut, Certificate Play It Again Sports.  Value $545
  9. 98.5 the JEWEL Advertising Kit, Forty 30 second spots on Ottawa’s own “the Jewel” 98.5 fm. Value $2,000
  10. Pitt Special SA2  A plane ride on one of eight ‘Red Baron’ biplanes in Canada.  A ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to ride the wind. Value: $450
  11. ROOM REDO – Upper Room Home Furnishings Gift Certificate $2,000 towards a consultation and furniture remake of a room of your choice in your own home.

Tickets are available by calling our office 613-237-6031.

Love to see you there.  Thanks for your support!

NEW!! Chiropractic Care at the Drop In

Just a few weeks ago we initiated chiropractic care at our drop in.  What an amazing outreach!

Dr. Greg Payne from Ottawa came to us last fall and offered his services to our guests at the drop in.  He took our Urban Intervention Training, and just a few weeks ago, he came with his portable adjustment table and a heart to serve the poor.  Calm and unassuming, Dr. Payne spends time with each of our street friends who are suffering in their bodies, and makes appropriate chiropractic adjustments.

What a hit!  Our street friends have warmly accepted the treatments and the kindness of the good doctor.  More than ‘treating patients’, Dr. Payne genuinely cares for each of his new patients.

No hassles.  No appointments.  No penetrating ‘interview’ about the history of each injury.  No fees.

I sat and watched for three or four of the treatments. Dignity, respect, compassion and help are the mainstays of this new development at Ottawa Innercity Ministries.  When things slowed down somewhat, I took time to visit with the doctor and noticed the sign up sheet had two columns: ‘New patients’ and ‘Returning Patients’.  Interesting that the ‘Returning Patients’ had more names – probably about twenty-eight in all.

Words of appreciation warmly spoken.  One man just could not believe that he could feel so much better immediately after his first treatment!

Some of the participants moved right from the chiropractic table over to the Touch Care area and enjoyed a relaxing light back massage.

I marveled at the beauty of it all: people sharing their gifts and talents and abilities with those in need.  At the other side of the room, two volunteers were doing foot care and Rudy was faithfully cutting hair at the entrance to the room. 

We have been given so much.  When I see how others ‘Pay it Forward’, it strikes a chord deep in my own heart.  It just seems so just, so right, so good to pool our resources and do what we can to change our own, and others’ worlds.

How do you think you could do your part, with your own gifts and talents?  Call me.  We can talk.

The Power of Volunteers

 As we work among people experiencing poverty and homelessness, we have discovered an unusually powerful component that has become one of the foundations of our outreach – volunteers.

It never ceases to amaze me how people will leave the warmth and comfort of their homes and families and brave all elements to ensure that the relationships they have established with their friends on the streets or at one of our drop in programs, are maintained and strengthened.  Truly amazing.

Our street friends notice!  They are students of human behavior.  They watch people all day, and can quickly tell the difference between an imitation and the real thing.  Volunteers are in this latter category.  If there were such a thing, our street friends would each qualify for an honorary Ph.D. degree in the study of human behavior.  They know when someone is ‘out to help’ for selfish, personal reasons or because they genuinely care.  This is the power of a volunteer.

We have our Urban Intervention Training program three times a year, and a volunteer social typically occurs at the conclusion of these training sessions.  It gives the new volunteers an opportunity to meet with people who are experienced in the area, and it also provides increased opportunities to meet new people with similar interests.

Tonight was great.  Our BBQ social was a great success.  People were talking and laughing while meeting new friends and hearing our stories.  The food was great, but the friendships – ah- that’s the thing.

We model genuine transparent relationships with each other and then take it to the streets.  Seasoned volunteers, new graduates, staff and work skills participants all pulling together to move this mountain called ‘homelessness’, and making a difference – one person at a time.

Ever wanted to be a part of a group that together was doing something so much bigger than any of us could do alone?  Come and join our team of volunteers.  You can make a difference!