Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Compassion is its Own Reward

"Once I started using that church, feeling good about myself, my friends started taking me into their places. Good things started happening for me."
"I was inebriated so often that I really didn't give a thought about it until I actually went. I was a wreck."
"Slowly, through time, the staff started helping me out, got me a pair of glasses, just helped me get my dental work done, and they supported me when I was sobering up. Now I'm housed. I don't really drink any more."
"At the (other) shelters, there's just way too many people. I never felt that any of my stuff was safe. I didn't like that whole scene."
Kyle Hiemstra, 26, Ottawa
 City surveys churches to build on emergency shelter program for homeless youth
Kyle Hiemstra, left and outreach worker Jason Pino and chat in the basement of First Baptist Church on Laurier Ave West. Pino and the church received a bylaw exemption allowing them to shelter a small number of homeless people one night a week on a trial basis.     Photograph by: Chris Mikula , Ottawa Citizen
"We've had absolutely no issues at all - no thievery or stealing. There's never been an issue of having to call the police. There's been no acts of violence."
Outreach worker Jason Pino

"We're heating the building. We have the space. It seems foolish just to let the mice run around. I'm not saying we have mice, but it's kind of a waste of space, in my view, if (a shelter) can be done responsibly. So why not?"
First Baptist Church Rev. Scott Kindred-Barnes
Sometimes it takes the compassion of strangers to fill in where family and friends have thrown up their hands in exasperated surrender to their inability to aid a young and vulnerable and dreadfully needy family member. Sometimes it's lack of patience, or of adequate dedication to the weary, soul-searching task at hand to apply themselves to the arduous effort required to turn a young person's life back to what is considered socially normal. Sometimes it may be indifference.

So thank nature for all that is good and altruistic that resides in the hearts and conscience of people who have nothing personal to gain in going to great lengths to help those whom fortune has deserted. People like Jason Pino who worked for a year to finally get the City of Ottawa's approval to use his church as a temporary, safe shelter meant specifically to give aid and encouragement to young people living on the street.

"A lot of churches are known as places of sanctuary ... we felt we should be allowed to do this" explained Mr. Pino, who operates the church shelter program through what is called Restoring Hope Ministries charity. It has proven to be such a successful humanitarian enterprise at the local level that the City of Ottawa is now looking around to find other churches willing to similarly commit their premises and supervision to emulating the First Baptist Church.

It wasn't an easy transition from living on the streets to tentatively agreeing to give this new haven a chance. Kyle Hiemstra began staying overnight once a week in the church's basement in the company of five other young people in need of emergency housing. When he finally did arrive for the first time, he liked the shelter. He slept on a pullout cot, chatted with others and played board and video games. "I don't really see it as a church", he said, still returning occasionally.

According to Ottawa's Alliance to End Homelessness 7,308 people used shelters in 2012. The city is looking to broadening interest among places of worship for the accommodation of service of this kind, city planner Alain Miguelez, explained. "What we basically want to do is something that's well suited for Ottawa", he said of the program that first began in Toronto in 1987 following the winter death of a homeless man.

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