About Erin Dej

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So far Erin Dej has created 44 blog entries.

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 [...]

By |November 16th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|3 Comments

Centre 454 – An Integral Part of the Community

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 |September 14th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|1 Comment

“Keep on breathing”: Jim Jenkins wins at more than soccer in the Homeless World Cup

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 |August 5th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|0 Comments

Feeling Safe and Welcome: St. Joe’s Women’s Centre

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. […]

By |July 4th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|0 Comments

How running saved my life: From 26 ounces to 26 miles

By Rob MacDonald, Housing Help   As I prepare for the National Capital Race Weekend in 2016, I am in my thirty seventh year of running. Regardless of all the years and miles, every race is still a time for reflection on how it all began and how running saved my life at a young age. I ran my first marathon in 1981 and clocked a 2:55 time at the finish line.  The cheering and thunderous applause was overwhelming to this novice in his first race. However, the story didn’t begin or end there. Two years earlier, it was a much more depressing time in my life.  I had just lost my partner to suicide, my best friend had been killed in a car accident, and another friend had decided to take her own life while four months pregnant. For myself, I was prone to depression and had also survived a suicide attempt. Grieving the loss of my partner back in those days was the most horrible, isolating experience one could ever imagine.  It was a gay relationship and, like so many others back then, it was a very closeted affair.  When my partner took his life, I had no one to turn to, and no one fully understood the magnitude of my loss. I grieved in solitude, in silence and tremendous pain. […]

By |May 26th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|3 Comments

“A House is the Beginning of Everything”: Amanda Ryan’s experience with Families First

By Jasmine Stamos Photo: Amanda Ryan, Case Worker and Child and Youth Liaison with Families First program Amanda Ryan can pinpoint the moment she became passionate about providing support for the homeless. “I was working with a young mom who was involved in a violent relationship with a partner. She was pregnant at the time [...]

By |April 26th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|0 Comments

Putting the Streets Behind Him: Mike Coe on his Experiences with Homelessness

“Staying at the shelter at night and living on the streets during the day was a disaster…” – Mike, 61 yrs. Mike wears a tie with a tie clip. His long-sleeved shirt always buttoned at the cuffs. His fingernails are trimmed. But, as Mike says, “you don’t have to look homeless to be homeless”. Today, [...]

By |April 12th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|1 Comment

Cooking for a Cause: Operation Come Home’s Poor Chef’s Competition

By Hunza Chaudhary The afternoon of February 9 got off to a competitive start as four professional chefs got together for an amazing cause at 150 Gloucester Street, otherwise known as Operation Come Home (OCH). OCH is a support centre for homeless youth and its mission is to “prevent homeless youth from becoming homeless adults”. The centre’s ‘Reality Campaign’ includes a series of events over the course of a month to raise awareness about the over 1000 youth who experience homelessness each year in Ottawa. I spoke with Lynda Franc, one of the creators of the Poor Chef’s Competition and she told me about the effectiveness of the Reality Campaign. She states that the campaign has “been going on for almost 15 years and is a month-long campaign to raise awareness for youth homelessness in Ottawa.” The Poor Chef’s Competition brings together professional chefs who are tasked with creating a good meal within a $3.15 budget. This reflects the estimated money available each day for a young person, who is an Ontario Works recipient, to dedicate to food, after paying the rent and bills. The meals were scrutinized by a panel of judges including Catherine McKenney, the Councillor for Somerset Ward, Michael Maidment, the Executive Director of the Ottawa Food Bank, and Mike Bulthuis, the Executive Director of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa. […]

By |February 24th, 2016|Ask Me Ottawa|0 Comments

Helping people where they’re at: Rooming House Outreach at Somerset West Community Health Centre

By Erin Dej I met Joanna on a balmy afternoon in July in the entry way of Somerset West Community Health Centre (SWCHC). Geared up with bottles of water, toiletries and pillows to give out we set off to visit four of Ottawa’s rooming houses. A rooming house by definition consists of individual rooms with five rooms for every one shared bathroom and sometimes a shared kitchen. Joanna has been a nurse practitioner with SWCHC for over ten years. Previous to this she worked in the shelter system, but recognized the greater health needs of rooming house tenants. Along with the Rooming House Outreach program, she provides medical care for those who use the walk-in clinic, seeing people as their primary provider if they find it difficult to keep appointments. Her passion for her work comes from her patients who are among those with the poorest health conditions in Ottawa. Joanna says that some of the people she meets in the rooming houses haven’t seen health care in many years so she does her best to “patch people up” and begin to build positive and trusting relationships to address longer-term health issues. […]

By |December 1st, 2015|Ask Me Ottawa|1 Comment

“We Care About Each Other”: Doris Zastre on over 20 years of service with the CCOC

By Erin Dej Doris has done it all. Before volunteering with Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC), she was one of the pioneers of the Sandy Hill Community Development Corporation, which later became the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre. It was during this time, the early 1970s, that Doris and her neighbours started talking around the kitchen table, wondering about what it means to have safe and affordable housing in a growing city. By 1975 CCOC had its first building and in 1981 Doris and her family moved in. She hasn’t looked back since. […]

By |November 1st, 2015|Ask Me Ottawa|0 Comments