Natalie Potvin: Finding the Joy in Other’s Success
By Diana Barry
Natalie Potvin works within Ottawa Mission to help individuals gain access to safe and affordable housing. Natalie’s happiness comes from finding safe environments for her clients to grow in.
Growing up in subsidized housing Natalie used this experience to help others access the basic needs that she knows many children in her neighborhood lacked. As Natalie stated “a home is a safe place we created and make our own, a place of comfort, a place of love and connection”. Her motivation comes from seeing and helping others excel and reach their fullest potential.
Natalie uses her position at the Ottawa Mission to help the city of Ottawa become a safer and more comfortable place to live in, by using the resources Ottawa has to create a positive change in people’s lives.
The Ottawa Mission is not only a shelter but a safe and secure place which has the purpose to provide food, shelter, clothing and skills, and offer healing, faith and hope for building a wholesome life.
Natalie’s time at Ottawa Mission is spent creating relationships with her clients, landlords and local organizations in order to get the resources she needs to fulfill safe housing for her clients. Natalie works with relocating and advocating for safe and affordable housing.
Natalie has been working in this field for 10 years which includes many challenges but also rewarding moments when she sees past clients update her on their success in their life. Within these 10 years of work Natalie follows the advice a past supervisor gave her to continue persevering through the ups and downs. The quote was, “people want to know how much you care before they care how much you know”, which proves the importance of being there to listen and learn rather than teach.
Natalie’s words of wisdom for others who want to help homelessness in Ottawa consists of, “you must build a respectful and trusting relationship with the individuals that we serve and work hard to get the resources that your clients need”. Natalie continues to find joy in the work she does to help homelessness in Ottawa.
Stefan Keyes: CTV News Ottawa Anchor and Ottawa Community Housing Ambassador
Stefan Keyes grew up in Ottawa Community Housing, where he says may of his best memories and his closest friends come from.
He was raised to respect and understand value of hard work, perseverance, and never giving up. However, growing up in a low-income neighbourhood also taught him to be conscious of class, economic differences, and social demographics.
There were moments during which he felt like an outsider, recalling a moment from elementary school when a lunch lady pressed him on his background and where he was ‘from’, ignoring his insistence that he was Canadian by birth and only accepting the answer that his parents immigrated from Jamaica.
This sense of being an outsider was exacerbated by the fact that Stefan did not see anyone who looked like him in the mainstream media. This is a troubling phenomenon, given that media seemed to share stories that disproportionately highlighted certain groups negatively rather than including diverse perspectives. With these experiences in mind, Stefan knew that he wanted his future career to help improve diversity.
As someone who had always loved the performing arts and speaking in front of others, the media was a natural fit for him. Since he was a child, Stefan has been passionate about the performing arts.
Stefan’s talent and work ethic earned him a scholarship for private theatre lessons and he attended Canterbury Arts high school. Following graduation he was offered a spot at a prestigious theatre school in the United States, but found the tuition to be inaccessible.
While this may have seemed like a roadblock at the time, it led him to pursue Journalism studies at Carleton University and eventually to his spot as the CTV Morning Live anchor. He worked hard to move through the ranks of CTV, working as an editorial assistant, weekend and evening reporter, a producer, and even moving to Calgary to gain experience as a morning anchor before returning to Ottawa in his current position.
Stefan hopes that his role will help others, and particularly young people, to feel represented in the media and to share diverse perspectives.
Beyond CTV, Stefan is involved in several non-profit initiatives for the arts and youth. As an Ottawa Community Housing Ambassador, Stefan has found that the most effective way to get across his message is to avoid preaching to other youth, but rather to spend time with them, and simply share stories. After meaningful conversation, things that once felt impossible often no longer feel beyond the realm of possibility.
Shea Kiely: Building community, from breakfast to haircuts
By Janet Allingham RN
When you ask Shea Kiely about the importance of having a place to call “home” she offers a concise answer: “Prevention is better than cure.” This says a lot about the Executive Director of St. Luke’s Table, a ministry of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, located in the basement of St. Luke’s Church, at the corners of Bell and Somerset West. Shea also says that “home” for her is a place that’s calm, clean, and safe, where you can feel at ease and comfortable.
The Table, as it’s known, strives to offer a sense of community to about 200 visitors per day. As a former recreation therapist, Shea knows how important this is. With a small staff of 6 (assisted by over 45 volunteers), she oversees day-to-day operations, the budget, human resources, fundraising, and strategic planning. There are specific services and activities each week: a bike clinic, sewing service, mental health counselling, a writing group, haircutting, help with housing, and referrals to other service agencies. A light breakfast offered in the morning is followed by a full course hot lunch at noon. Success, according to Shea, can be measured by the number of people who come back to The Table. Over 55,000 visits per year says that The Table must be doing something right.
Is it possible to solve the problem of homelessness? Shea says that some people feel it’s better to be homeless because support services are more accessible. She adds, however, that she has seen improvements over the years, and there are, for example, fewer people living on the street. However, “couch surfers” and people who live in rooming houses are still at risk and waiting lists for even substandard housing are long. Shea is frustrated when she finds out that people are using their ODSP or OAS to pay for substandard housing. “It’s not a good way to spend money,” she says.
Shea has an important response for those who say homeless people should just get a job and find a place to live: “Society should be less judgmental. When many highly educated people can’t find work, it’s even harder for those who haven’t had educational opportunities.”
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.