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Who’s in your “Love Army”?

 

Who’s In Your “Love Army?”

Not all family comes from a place of birth.

Often those situations can be traumatic, painful and unhealthy. If we take a minute to pause we can notice in our lives that we’ve all experienced trauma. However, to some it just looks really different.

Day after day my heart fills with awe at how a community can create love and purpose in the lives of others who would not otherwise receive it.

Here’s a question worth taking a moment to ponder an answer… who is in your “love army”? You know, those that hold you up, who you depend on and help define a part of who we are. What would society look like if we encouraged emotional connectedness? There would be community, passion, empathy, connection.

At OIM we have an extra special program called the Freedom Group. Here we come together in a safe, confidential space where we share, laugh, make connections in a beautiful community and use art to express ourselves.  This month we are talking about the topics of community and purpose; how they affect us individually and how we can positively impact others around us.

This week for our art medium we brought out our inner child and used playdough. It feels great to express yourself with something as it squishes between your fingers, just like puddle jumping in the rain.

Using our super cool, tangible coloured dough balls we answered 2 questions; 1. Who do you depend on? Who’s in your “love army”? 2. What makes you feel alive?

Each creating  unique masterpieces to answer, we shared what they meant. The unanimous conclusion seemed to be that our “love army” did not come from the family home; rather the extra special people surrounding us that have our backs in the dark times as well as times of personal growth.

What about you? Who’s in your “love army?”

-Bonnie

Youth Outreach Worker

 

 

Advent Stories: Love

Adora’s Vlogs (1)

This time of year, Christians around the world will be celebrating advent, a time of expectant waiting for Christmas. Come with us as we journey through advent together, listening to stories from those in our programs as they explore Hope, Faith, Love and Peace.

LOVE

 We met Larissa 3 years ago. She’d gone through a lot in her short life, including spending much of her teen years on the streets. Yet, she has a spark in her that just won’t go out – despite all she has been though. We asked her about the word LOVE and what it means to her: 

“When I was on the street, I would go to a lot of services and programs – but I didn’t really feel love there. I know they were trying to help….but it just felt like a service….not love.

When I came to Innercity Arts, I felt loved right away. I could tell that everyone loved each other and were connected.

I think that every new person who comes to the art group can see that we love each other – that we are a community. But they may feel like they don’t belong there. Sometimes, they may even act out or cause a problem because they don’t feel like they belong. But then we get over the problem and they learn that they are accepted anyways. And then they are part of the community.

I think that love doesn’t have a shape, or colour, or name, or form…it’s comes from people. Like the wonderful people at OIM  who work together and do good things. They show love to us, and then we carry that love wherever we go.

That’s what I think of when I think of Love.”

Larissa remains a faithful member of Innercity Arts and the Spirit of the Streets Choir. Last year, she took the Urban Intervention Training so she is now a weekly OIM volunteer!

Listen to Larissa Story:

 

 

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.

New Perspective on Home

I attend St. Albans Anglican Church in downtown Ottawa. We are lucky to have space in the midst of both the Market, nearby Centretown, and Sandy Hill. We feel as though we are surrounded by busy city life, with event constantly taking place and people coming and going.

It also means our church body lives with neighbours experiencing poverty and homelessness, in fact our church body, itself, has members who find themselves living in shelters or on the streets. It is a stark reality of urban life, and one our congregational is learning to navigate with sensitivity and compassion. It certainly helps that Centre 454, a social service, is located in the lower half of our church building. The folks who work and volunteer there are the same as those you would encounter at OIM–deeply caring and passionate people.

Though we have the pleasure of housing Centre 454 and partnering with them in their ministry, it can be difficult to know how to incorporate our church’s youth into this part of our life together. We have a small but energetic group and as leaders who see Jesus’ strong dedication to social justice we know it is essential to be able to invite our young men, women and children into experiences that can foster understanding.

As a staff member at OIM I knew about our One Homeless Night program, which invites youth to walk for a night in the shoes of one of their peers experiencing homelessness. Though our size did not lend itself to this activity we truly wanted our youth to experience the lessons and principles that this activity offer.

We invited OIM’s Youth Outreach Worker to join us for an evening of discussion, and walk of ‘new perspective’. We traveled around our own neighbourhood, of Sandy Hill, in the rain, trying to see with new insight the individuals and stories of our very own street community. Some of the stories were difficult, and our youth struggled to understand, but more often than not they rose to the occasion with questions and concern. It was unbelievably valuable experience, and one we brought to a close by packing gifts for the Passion 4 Youth participants and, of course, prayer.

It was imperative that we not only see and understand, but that we follow with action.

I hope next year our numbers will grow, or that we might partner with other churches for a full overnight One Homeless Night event. For now, I am grateful that OIM, a place care for dearly, was able to bless my youth with a new perspective for their own homes, and to challenge them how they might invite inclusion and create spaces of safety and support for their neighbours.

 

Selina,

OIM Staff

If you’re interested in organizing a One Homless Night event with your youth group or school visit our One Homeless Night page for more information.

“Tessa’s Home” (postcript): The Future

Tessa’s Home is an 8 part series that ran from November 28 to December 27th.  To listen to the audio backgrounders and accompanying blogs, click “Recent Posts” on the right sidebar.  Here is Tessa vision for her future.

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

 

Tessa talks about the future…

Now, I’m starting to transition.  I’ve taken the Urban Intervention Training and I’m starting to transition and be more than just one of the youth.  I want to be the one that helps. I want to try and do what they (OIM) did for me, to somebody else. There’s nothing that I would rather do.

More often than not, when a youth goes up to someone in leadership and tells them their problems, they (the youth) will say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like.  You have no idea what it’s like (ie. to live on the streets)’.  More often than not, the response is, ‘Yea, you’re right. I really don’t know what it’s like.’

I want to be the one to say, ‘I do know what its like. I’ve been exactly where you’ve been and if I didn’t get help from places like this, I wouldn’t be where I am trying to help you now.’  I want to do that.

What a journey! Thanks to all who have made a donation of any size!  Every dollar counts, and every dollar goes to help us continue outreach on the streets of our Nation’s Capital.  If you have appreciated Tessa’s story and want to help us continue reaching out to street engaged youth, please click ‘Donate Now’.   Thanks for your support!

“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 6: Passion 4 Youth Art Program – OIM is Home

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 continues…

When I started going to OIM’s art group, I was hooked. Their mentors, and goal focused environment helped me to gain a home, get my children back, and most-importantly, my self confidence. They’ve been more of a family to me, than my own blood, and I never felt anyone take more interest, or show me more support than them. They’ve motivated, and supported me enough to want to start working at a new shelter, and also to complete OIMs urban intervention training course and to start volunteering with their street outreach team.

The people at OIM would never have a bad word to say about any of us youth in the art group, and for that, I owe them the state of my life today. That’s what home is all about I think: no judgment, only acceptance, forgiveness, love and understanding…when I go there, it’s like what going home should be – not like the last time I went ‘home’… 

Knowing they’re privately funded, each day, I thank God, for the people who helped not only me, but many of my companions, make a better life for themselves. For the rest of my life, I will be truly grateful to these people for their help and confidence in me. To quote Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I’ve never believed that more deeply, or more truly, than when I met these people, who took an interest in my life, and my goals, and my art, and then they showed me how amazing it feels, to do it for others.

This Christmas, please make a donation to help us continue our Passion 4 Youth Street Outreach program.  Together, we are making a difference! Any donation amount appreciated!  Click ‘Donate Now’