Author Archives: Pat

A SON’S INSPIRATION… A LIFE CHANGED

At 55, Chris is beginning a whole new life – one he could never have imagined even a year ago.

Chris’s adulthood was marked by addiction and trouble with the law. Although he was college educated and had a good job, a number of influences – including a troubled relationship with his father, the sudden death of his mother, and failed personal relationships – led him to a life of drugs.

Thirteen years ago, Chris became a father. As with most people, becoming a parent was lifechanging for Chris, but he was not equipped – mentally or physically – to really embrace fatherhood because of his addiction.

Then one day his young son came up to him, put his hands on Chris’s face, and said, “Please stop what you’re doing. I need my Dad in my life.” Chris vowed to himself to conquer his addiction, and he was successful. But Chris had a lot of difficulty finding work – he says not only because of his background, but also because of all his tattoos.

Last year Chris was on social assistance when his case worker told him about the Food Services Training Program at The Ottawa Mission. Chris had always had a passion for cooking, so he immediately applied and was accepted – tattoos and all!

Chris graduated from the five month program in June, and is working full time. As Chris says, “I am so grateful to my son for being such an inspiration to me, and to The Mission for the training and encouragement they have
provided. I have a career now, and I have hope for the future. And most importantly, I can provide for my son.”

VOLUNTEER CORNER – A KIND AND GRATEFUL HEART

As she approached retirement after 40 years as a counsellor and social worker, Jean Wylie was looking for volunteer opportunities. Thankfully for us, she answered the call one day to help make sandwiches at The Ottawa Mission. That was seven years ago, and Jean has become a familiar face to the staff and clients at The Mission where she never misses her Tuesday shift helping to prepare and serve meals.

Beyond this, Jean volunteers or participates in just about every community fundraiser that The Mission is involved in – including Coldest Night of the Year, WestFest and many more.

But for Jean, working in the kitchen and serving people in need holds a special place in her heart. She points out that many clients at first are reluctant to even make eye contact with the volunteers and staff. But, she says that over time they come to trust you. “Sharing a smile with someone who likely doesn’t get a lot of people smiling at them during their day is an uplifting experience. And the gratitude they express is overwhelming. I’m also very grateful.”

As Jean was returning home from the shelter recently, still wearing her Mission Volunteer t-shirt, she was approached at the bus stop by a young man. He wanted her to know that five years ago he was a client at The Mission, and his life has totally turned around. He is working full time and has a place of his own. He just wanted Jean to know that her work as a volunteer really matters.

It really matters to us too Jean! Thank you and God bless.

WENYIN – THE FACE OF INSPIRATION

When you meet Wenyin for the first time you are struck by his beaming smile and humble nature. And when you hear about his journey over the past year, you can’t help but be amazed by how much he has turned his life around in such a short space of time.

Wenyin is 36 and emigrated to Canada with his mother and sister from South Sudan fourteen years ago seeking asylum from persecution. Wenyin struggled for many of those fourteen years, and his self-destructive behaviour caused a rift in his family.

Things came to a head in the fall of 2016 when Wenyin lost his property management job and his apartment. He came to The Ottawa Mission in crisis and has not turned back. Right away he started attending our Day Program – a drop in session for men suffering from addiction. He also visited our medical clinic where he received treatment for depression, and strengthened his commitment to healing by attending our daily chapel service and participating in bible study.

When Wenyin learned about our Stepping Stones Learning Centre, he grasped the opportunity to improve his future job prospects by working on completing his high school education. At this writing, he is just a couple of months away from achieving this. But there’s more! Wenyin also completed a Custodial Training Program offered by St. Nicholas Adult High School, and this summer he is working every morning at Inspiration Village in the Byward Market as part of a maintenance team keeping the site in pristine condition.

As Wenyin says, “Before I came to The Mission, I had never completed anything I started, and I was wasting my life. Now, with the support and encouragement of everyone I have met at The Mission, I have accomplished more than I could have imagined. They keep me motivated and I still feel inspired every day.”

Congratulations, Wenyin. We are inspired too!

GLEN IS GRATEFUL TO BE HOME

Glen has spent much of his adult life in and out of shelters across Canada, including The Ottawa Mission, struggling with addiction and trying to find a way to stabilize his life.

Glen stayed with us for several months last year and says although life is pretty chaotic living in a shelter and sharing a dorm with others, he feels The Mission is one of the best shelters in Canada. He appreciates the volunteers and staff that work hard every day to keep the shelter clean and prepare meals for people staying here. Glen goes on to say, “Dealing with a serious addiction for most of my life left me on the streets for years. I’m a very private person and asking for help was hard – I always felt judged. But I didn’t feel that way at The Mission. A housing case manager worked with me to find a safe and affordable place to live which, in turn, stabilized my life. I live alone and still visit The Mission from time to time for a meal because it is a very welcoming place.”

Glen adds that even now that he has his own place he continues to receive support for practical things like how to pay bills and establish routine in his life. Glen has few friends and admits loneliness can hit sometimes. But he’s very happy to finally have a place of his own and grateful to The Mission and its supporters for their generosity.

GEORGE NAVIGATES TO A BETTER LIFE

On Canada’s 150th birthday, George celebrated one year of sobriety.  His journey to this milestone has been a long and winding one, but he’s thankful to you and The Ottawa Mission for his success.

George is 61 and was born in Cape Anguille, Newfoundland, once a bustling fishing village near Port aux Basques where he was a commercial fisherman for most of his younger years.  When the cod fishery collapsed in 1992 most people in Cape Anguille, George included, lost the only livelihood and sense of community they’d ever known.  Some turned to alcohol to ease their pain, and George was one of them.

Over the years, as George travelled the country searching for sobriety and work, he stayed in shelters in pretty much every major Canadian city.  He says it wasn’t until he arrived at The Ottawa Mission that he finally got the help he needed.

When speaking about The Mission, George will often say that it really is what it claims to be – “more than a shelter” – and that this is what makes a difference to people who often have to navigate the system without the support they need to get back on track.  He says, “At The Mission, no matter what challenges you are facing, there is always someone there to help.”

George’s own journey led him through the full range of addiction treatment available at The Mission, from the Day Program (a daily drop in session) through the Hope program, and Stabilization, and on to our five month residential LifeHouse program.  We also helped George access a Custodial Skills training program where he renewed his certificates in Health & Safety, First Aid and CPR.

Today George is living in one of our 2nd Stage transitional houses while he works part time, helps out his elderly neighbour with her yard work, and continues his recovery.  As George says, “I wouldn’t be here today without the wonderful staff at The Mission and the people who support their work.”  Fair sailing, George!

A Son’s Inspiration… A Life Changed

At 55, Chris is beginning a whole new life – one he could never have imagined even a year ago.

Chris’s adulthood was marked by addiction and trouble with the law.  Although he was college educated and had a good job, a number of influences – including a falling-out with his father, the sudden death of his mother, and failed personal relationships – led him to a life of drugs.

Thirteen years ago, Chris became a father.  As with most people, becoming a parent was life-changing for Chris, but he was not equipped – mentally or physically – to really embrace fatherhood because of his addiction.

Then one day his young son came up to him, put his hands on Chris’s face, and said, “Please stop what you’re doing.  I need my Dad in my life.”  Chris vowed to himself to conquer his addiction, and he was successful.   But Chris had a lot of difficulty finding work – he says not only because of his background, but also because of all his tattoos.

Last year Chris was on social assistance when his case worker told him about the Food Services Training Program at The Ottawa Mission.  Chris had always had a passion for cooking, so he immediately applied and was accepted – tattoos and all!

Chris is graduating from the five month program early in June, and is already working full time.  And we hear that his son will be front and centre at the graduation ceremony.  As Chris says, “I am so grateful to my son for being such an inspiration to me, and to The Mission for the training and encouragement they have provided.  I have a career now, and I have hope for the future.  And most importantly, I can provide for my son.”    Congratulations, Chris!

 

The Ottawa Mission’s Speakers Series – You’re Invited

This spring, The Ottawa Mission has been bringing together people interested in the issue of homelessness to learn more about the life-changing services at our shelter, and around the community. The 2017 Speakers Series has touched on the evolution of services for people experiencing homelessness; medical services in shelters; and addiction services at The Mission.

The next last session of this spring event will happen on Monday, April 24 @ 7:00 p.m., and will feature a presentation by Erin Dej, from the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York University. Erin received her doctorate in Criminology from the University of Ottawa. Her area of research includes homelessness, mental health, and autonomy among homeless men and women.

Erin will provide an overview of homelessness on a national scale, looking at the number of people who experience homelessness in Canada, how shelter use has changed in the past decade, and what homelessness looks like for key populations such as youth, families, and Indigenous Peoples.  She will also describe the opportunities to make significant change in homelessness – most notably, the development of the upcoming National Housing Strategy. The second part of the presentation will draw on Erin’s doctoral research on homelessness in Ottawa, including how people experiencing homelessness navigate the system, find services (in particular mental health services), and what supports they say they need to help them become safely and securely housed.

The session is free and open to anyone. It will be held in The Ottawa Mission’s dining room at 35 Waller Street. Refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP your attendance to Miriam Dupuis at volunteer@ottawamission.com

 

Lent at The Mission

Every weekday at 10:55 a.m. a general announcement is made over the intercom at The Ottawa Mission by our Chaplain, Greg Rodgers:  “Chapel service begins in five minutes.  Everyone is welcome.”

People staying at the shelter, and people who live in the community join together for this daily half hour of prayer, bible readings and song, and it’s always a special treat for staff and volunteers to hear music and singing voices coming from the chapel.

The Lenten season leading up to Easter is an especially important time of the year for those who attend chapel.  This year there will be special services on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

A lot of us observe Lent by making a personal sacrifice of some sort – like giving up special treats.  For those who are homeless, hungry and hurting, sacrifice and suffering are constants in their lives, something they live with every day.   And the strength they show in enduring many hardships, in always trying to make better lives for themselves, and in maintaining their faith throughout, is something we can all learn from – during Lent and all year round.

The season will culminate in a special celebration of the risen Lord on Monday, April 17th when staff and volunteers come together to serve 2700 special Easter meals – thanks to the generosity of our donors – to people who are hungry and alone.  The gratitude of those who attend this celebration is something they carry with them in their hearts through Easter and beyond.

Mark Graduates to a New Life

Mark recently celebrated four years of sobriety.  This alone is a major achievement for the 55 year old who struggled with addiction for many years.   But beyond this, in the past year Mark has turned his life around in a remarkable way.

Mark is from Windsor, Ontario where he grew up in foster care.  Life was full of loneliness and hardship for Mark, and he fell into addiction as a young man.   He never finished high school so job opportunities were limited, and when he came to us last year he was unemployed and ready to make a major change in his life.

Mark always enjoyed cooking, and when he learned about our 5-month Food Services Training Program (FSTP) he jumped at the opportunity to learn some new marketable skills.  As an added bonus, all of the hours he spent in the kitchen earned him co-op credits from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.   As a result, Mark has not only graduated from the FSTP, but he has also graduated from high school!

Today Mark is working at a local catering company and he admits that, even though the FSTP gave him wonderful skills and knowledge that helped him get a good job, his proudest moment was when he received his high school diploma.   As Mark says, “Getting my diploma after all these years gave me the confidence I needed to build a better life, and I am so grateful for all the support I received.”

Congratulations Mark!

William’s Transformation

William is reaching an important milestone just before Christmas this year.  On December 21 he will be 50.  While this is special on its own, there is so much more that he will be celebrating this year.   Because William’s life has truly been transformed – in more ways than one.

It began on June 16 when William attended the graduation ceremony for The Ottawa Mission’s Food Services Training Program (FSTP) to celebrate a friend who was part of the class.  During the ceremony, a former graduate spoke glowingly about the program, but also about the help he received from The Mission with education programs for mature students.  For William, learning about the FSTP and all of the other services available at The Mission was a revelation.

William’s life journey to this point had been marked by an unhappy family life, time in foster care, limited access to education, periods of homelessness, and unemployment.  Sitting in the audience that day, all he could see ahead were possibilities – especially since he had always loved cooking – so he applied, and was accepted into the next FSTP class.  He has earned top marks so far and is also busy working with staff at our Stepping Stones Learning Centre to accumulate credits that will earn him his high school diploma.  And there’s more!

This Thursday, November 17 William and his classmates will be showcasing their newly acquired cooking skills at our FSTP Gala evening that runs from 6-8:30 p.m.   Guest will be treated to some wonderful gourmet food, and they will also have a chance to get to know the students, especially William, who has been chosen to speak at the event.

William’s heart is filled with gratitude for the way his life has changed in such a short time, and he extends that gratitude everyone at The Mission and to all those who support our work.

There are still a few tickets available for the Gala.  If you are interested, call us at 613-234-1144 or email events@ottawamission.com.