Ken Byars: The Hope within the Outreach
By Diana Barry
“When you invest time in someone’s life, you are telling the person they are important”
Ken Byars has a drive for making youth feel, loved and important. He spends his time volunteering with youth in his community and throughout Ottawa to show them that they can be loved without condition. Ken believes home is all about being with family in a safe environment; no matter who that might be. He tries to portray positive values to the youth he works with in order for them to have more self-confidence. He uses his passion for ministry to motivate himself and those he works with. He works very hard in order for the youth to see the potential that they have.
Ken has volunteered through multiple organizations over the past twenty years such as Ottawa Inner City Ministry, Restoring Hope, Ministry for Bikers and individual outreach programs. He currently uses his time to work individually with youth from many different backgrounds as a constant support throughout their growth. Ken’s love for his volunteer work helps to overcome some of the challenges he’s found within his volunteer work. He stated that once you allow yourself to get involved in this work it is easy to lose control with your emotions. He explains the importance of setting boundaries and staying within them in order to find successful results.
Ken enforces the importance of following through with the work he does, because if you are going to spend time on someone you need to fully be there for them. A lot of his work consists of mentoring the youth, being a listening ear, making sure that they are safe and knowing that someone cares about them. Ken believes that these kids need a fair chance because a lot of them have never been given the resources they need to succeed. The best advice Ken can give to anyone who feels the drive to work with youth is that you must be honest and completely yourself. Ken’s faith has continued to push him within making his impact on many youth who may feel as if no one cares about them.
Kristin Schilkie: Creating a Safe Place
By Diana Barry
Finding joy in helping others live a successful life is one of the many reasons that Kristin Schilkie is motivated with her work at the Ottawa Mission.
Kristin is a frontline worker with the Housing First program at the Ottawa Mission. This program has really taken off and helped many homeless individuals/families obtain a place of their own. Within this position she is helping Ottawa’s issue with homelessness by directly moving people out of the shelter into their own place or connecting them to the services that will best support them.
Growing up, Kristin felt joy from helping others, this shows throughout her work with ending homelessness. She was working with the Ottawa Mission and soon after found herself in Client Services as a Housing Support Worker, she enjoys finding housing and connecting her clients to new organizations. She continues to work in this field because of the great feeling she gets by seeing how happy her clients are while moving into their new homes. One of the most difficult challenges she has found within her work is finding affordable housing for her clients which is an ongoing issue in Ottawa. Maintaining good relationships with landlords and agencies is one of the ways she has overcame this issue. She continues to put all she has into her work in order to be the representative that her clients need when they may not have anyone else.
Kristin explains how in order to handle most challenges you must never give up, and continue to persevere in order to get the results you want. She goes on to state that kindness and respect go a long way and to always be mindful of what someone else may be going through while interacting with someone new. Creating a safe place where you can be comfortable and have memories with family and friends is exactly the description of home for Kristin and one of the reasons as to why she works so hard to help others find a safe place they can call home. She continues to love what she does in order to help others get the support that they may not be able to do on their own.
Ibrahim Musa: Cuts for Kids Founder and Ottawa Community Housing Ambassador
Ibrahim Musa is a busy nineteen year old – he runs a non-profit organization, the Cuts For Kids Foundation, which he created, works with City Council through his role on the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee, is an intern at Youth Ottawa and is an Ottawa Community Housing Tenant Ambassador. He does all this while attending the University of Ottawa, full-time.
Ibrahim arrived in Canada as a refugee from Iraq in 2002 and has lived in Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) since, becoming a Tenant Ambassador in 2016 with the goal of inspiring others.
In 2015, Ibrahim was inspired to start a non-profit organization that provides free haircuts to children in Ottawa. A little under a year later and with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers, charitable community members, local barbershops and hair salons, and lawyers offering pro-bono assistance, the Cuts For Kids Foundation was born. As the Executive Director, Ibrahim now manages a team of eight staff, all of whom work unpaid and are dedicated to the cause, and together they run between 8-10 events every year and coordinate 2-4 fundraisers.
He credits Ottawa Community Housing and the help and guidance that the staff provided as one of the reasons for his success. The other is the community around him and the importance of tenants working together.
The Cuts For Kids Foundation recently received Agent Status with Youth Ottawa, officially becoming a charity, with all the fundraising directly contributing to the program. The future is bring for this young star.
Joey Clavette: Amplifying the voices of marginalized writers
By Janet Allingham RN
Why would a young university student give up a semester of school? In the case of Joey Clavette, the reason was altruistic. Joey decided he wanted to found a newspaper that would give homeless people a voice.
Joey traces his decision back to an ethics course he took at the University of Ottawa. Ethics is a branch of knowledge that has to do with what’s right and what’s wrong. Joey says he was asking himself “How does a good person behave?”
During the course, he’d read about a British ethicist, John Rawls, who suggested that the way to “do good” is to put yourself in the shoes of marginalized people-the folks at the sidelines: homeless people, for example.
Joey felt that they needed a voice and that a newspaper focused on their issues could be the means to that end. And so The Wrench was born. For over half a year now it’s been part of Ottawa’s streetscape.
Joey believes that it’s reasonable to imagine a city where everybody has a home. For him, home is important: a place where you can count on support; where shelter is adequate; and where you can feel comfortable.
According to Joey, it’s reasonable to imagine a city where everybody has a place to call “home”. He wants Canadians to think about homelessness in Canada’s 150th year as a problem that can be fixed-something each of us can do something about. In his case, he founded a paper.
Terrie Meehan: Barriers only exist if we let them exist
Terrie loves chocolate and her service dog, who spends most of his time snuggling up against her shoulder. She takes the bus to get to her doctor’s appointment downtown and is not really fond of snow piles on the streets of Ottawa’s. I think most of us can agree that we relate really well with her?
Terrie became homeless at the age of 16: “the decision was either to leave or to jump off the balcony. So I left.” Her life has always lacked stability: divorced parents, being enrolled in 16 different schools, and living a life between shelters, couch-surfing and non-permanent housing. Despite all the difficulties in her life, Terrie found help and a place to stay. The key in her pocket is her key to a self-determined life. “I can choose to close the door and just be with myself and my animals. I can choose what to eat, when to sleep and when to get up. And if I want to sleep on the couch for the night and not in my bed, I will just do it!”
Terrie has mastered the art of finding happiness in the small delights of life. Furthermore, it makes her happy to advocate for others in need, whether it is professionally, as a member and co-chair of the communication committee for the Alliance to End Homelessness, or as an ordinary Ottawa neighbour who is committed to making the city a more ‘homeful’ place. Everyone can effect change. “It’s not difficult,” she says, “just talk to folks on the street, smile at them, and treat them as human beings. They are grateful for every single word.” Barriers only exist if we let them exist.
“Pay it forward to a person in need and you will be surprised how much fun it is”, she says and laughs.
Terrie believes that each of us can contribute towards making Ottawa a more ‘homeful’ city for everyone – the small and the big actions together will keep the transformation going.
Her advice: “Personally, I love to annoy politicians whenever I can. But I know that it isn’t everyone’s favourite sport. It’s important that you just do what you can.”