The Ask Me campaign shares the stories behind the people that make up the homeless community in Ottawa. By learning about homelessness from the people closest to it – those experiencing homelessness, volunteers, and community workers – we can highlight what is working and what is needed in our efforts to end homelessness. This is where the conversation begins.
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By Sarina Bhaiwala If you stop by Centre 454 anytime during the week, you’ll find a blossoming garden and welcoming community. First established in the basement of St. Alban’s church in 1945, the day program is one of five community ministries of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa. Centre 454 offers drop-in support services and social activities for individuals who are precariously housed or homeless in Ottawa. Although the Centre changed locations to Murray Street more than a decade ago, it returned to its original location on King Edward in 2012 after receiving city and diocesan funding to restore St. Alban’s basement. This decision was accompanied by some concerns from the surrounding neighbourhood. Residents feared the Centre would bring drug use, vandalism, litter, and conflict with residents. Jen Crawford, the Executive Director of Centre 454, understands where the community’s worries stemmed from. With all the social service agencies in this area, “there is already a lot of action going on,” she said. The Centre was aware of these concerns, and was proactive in building a positive relationship with the surrounding community after the move. The staff worked to quell the misunderstandings regarding the Centre and its visitors; they committed to doing a walk around the building every morning to make sure there was no garbage and that everything was in order. “It’s three years later and our staff still do it,” said Crawford. The Centre has also participated in the citywide “Cleaning the Capital” event every year to clean the three-block radius that surrounds its property. […]
By Erin Dej Jim Jenkins is a goalie for an international soccer league. He has also experienced homelessness, mental health challenges, and struggled with addiction. Jim was one of a few Canadians, and only Ottawa resident, chosen for the 2015 Street Soccer Canada – National Team who played in the Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam, Netherlands last summer. It has been a long road for Jim to get to Amsterdam. He spent a year and a half in Ottawa shelters, some of that time fighting for his life with double pneumonia while detoxing. Never one to give up, Jim decided that “life is still a goal” and fought to regain his health and his life. He eventually secured housing through Ottawa Community Housing and has remained successfully housed for the last eight years. […]
By Julia Anderson The most high stakes game of Bingo you have ever laid eyes on takes place each Friday at St. Joe’s Women’s Centre. The prizes might not be glamourous or expensive, but for the homeless and vulnerably housed women who use St. Joe’s as their sanctuary, winning a little something extra can go a long way. On Friday January 22nd, as morning waned into afternoon, the women began to gather around the long wooden table and clamoured to ensure their names were on the list to participate in the game. The coveted prizes of the week were donated purses that Jen, a Social Service student at Algonquin College completing a practicum at St. Joe’s, worked hard to fill with as many treats as possible: hats, mittens, scarves, and chocolate. St. Joe’s was founded in 1984 and began primarily as a drop in centre where women could come in to get out of the cold or seek shelter. Over the years the centre has moved locations and blossomed into a fully functioning daytime shelter that provides women with specific programs to meet their needs. Many of these changes and improvements are the result of the hard work done by devoted staff members such as Isabelle Mackay and Michelle Torunski, who are the program coordinators at St. Joe’s. […]