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.”
Giving the essentials: The Backpacks for the Homeless initiative
By Erin Dej
On Christmas Eve this year 2,300 people experiencing homelessness in Ottawa are expected to receive backpacks filled with hygiene products, clothing, treats, and a Tim Hortons gift card thanks to an initiative created by Ron Pitre.
On October 15, 2012 Ron’s house caught fire and he lost everything. Luckily, no one was hurt and he had tenant insurance to help him get back on his feet. Spending thousands of dollars at once to furnish his new home left Ron feeling uneasy, and he saw it as a calling to help those in need. Ron had previously experienced a brief bout of homelessness and there was a period where he relied on food banks, including over Christmas time. He remembers how important the Christmas food boxes were to help make the holiday season special for his daughter. After the fire, Ron realized “I’m made to help someone”.
That year Ron, a music lover, attended the Shepherds of Good Hope’s Christmas Eve mass, with his keyboard and a stack of Tim Horton’s gift cards in tow. That night began something bigger than Ron could have imagined. Wanting to do more, in 2013 he handed out gift bags. In 2014 he distributed 230 backpacks, thanks to the support of Giant Tiger. In 2015 things really took off. Besides Shepherds, Backpacks for the Homeless now partners with the Ottawa Mission, Ottawa Inner City Ministries, Operation Come Home, Centre 507, the Salvation Army, and Le Gîte Ami distributing over 1,000 backpacks.
Ron now has a team of volunteers coordinating the project. Between those who donate money in the fundraising campaign to buy the backpacks and Tim Hortons cards, to the volunteers who take a backpack (or two!) to fill with essential items, to the 3 team leaders who manage the logistics of getting backpacks to and from volunteers and to the designated organizations, Ron estimates that over 1,000 people are committed to helping the cause. The volunteers, Ron says, are excited to help. Workplaces, churches, and families get involved, with many children leaving handmade Christmas cards in the backpacks. Ron says he’s overwhelmed by people’s generosity and enthusiasm to help Ottawa’s homeless.
Ron has learned a lot about homelessness over the years. He chokes up as he describes the stories people have shared with him. Ron says that he’s learned about the causes of homelessness, “it’s not because they want to be there or choose it”. Abuse, intergenerational trauma experienced by Indigenous Peoples, and the lack of affordable housing all contribute to homelessness. Ron’s hope is that the backpacks give people a sense of dignity and warmth that they deserve during the Christmas season.
The Backpacks for the Homeless initiative is working to raise another $5,000 in donations to reach its 2016 goal of providing 2,300 backpacks to Ottawa’s homeless. They are holding a fundraising event this Thursday, November 17th at 6:30pm at Broadway Bar and Grill (1896 Prince of Wales Drive). Anyone wishing to volunteer to fill a backpack can sign up at backpacksforhomeless.ca or visit their Facebook page.