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Barry's New Life at Options Bytown

Barry’s  New Life at Options Bytown

And so this is Christmas and what have you done?  Another year over and a new one just begun....

Barry moved into his own apartment at Options Bytown three weeks before Christmas in 2014. He was very uncertain about his surroundings and what would be his new future.  Barry only had the clothes on his back. Everything he had owned was now gone.

Life for Barry was very cruel.  He was born developmentally delayed. He was raised by a single mom with 3 other siblings.  Christmas was never a joyous affair.  Times were hard and food was scarce let alone presents.

Barry was frequently tormented for appearing awkward.  School was especially difficult for him and he left it as soon as he was able. When Barry was 14 his mother was killed in a car accident and he and his siblings were put into foster care.

His foster family treated Barry with little regard for his well being.  He was the ‘dumb one’ and was made to do all of the chores around the house while the other children had no chores. None of the foster children received gifts at Christmas.  

When Barry was of age to be on his own he became homeless and was poorly prepared to find work.  He had no discernible skills and his education was minimal.  He ate in soup kitchens and stayed in shelters with strangers who stole from him.  He was a target for violence because of his disability.  He was not safe and he knew it. . One day one of the workers at the shelter told Barry about Options Bytown’s supportive housing and about how he could have his own home where he could be safe and where he could learn independent living skills.  Options Bytown provides the supports that tenants need to stay housed.  He was told that if he needed to connect to an outside agency for any reason, an Options Bytown housing support worker would help him make that happen.  If Barry needed information about anything, all he need do is ask and they would help him.  There were life skills programs where Barry could be taught how to do his laundry, cook for himself, learn budgeting, grocery shop for healthy food and take care of his personal hygiene.

From the life-changing day when Barry arrived at Options Bytown until today a new world of opportunity has opened up for Barry. Barry gained self sufficiency through life skills programming, counselling and information sharing from compassionate social work staff. His life has been greatly enriched. With the assistance of the housing support workers Barry was also able to find part-time employment at a local Walmart. Today Barry is part of a caring community. He participates in outings together, attends varied independent lifeskills programs, special events and even parties.   The Christmas dinner is an especially joyous time.  Tenants help in the preparation of the meal as well. Close to 125 tenants and their family members, friends and volunteers gathertogether to enjoy a home-made Christmas dinner at our 3 apartment buildings in central Ottawa. Later they bring down their food storage containers and fill them up so that they can have additional Christmas meals during the week following. But Christmas would not be Christmas without presents and Options Bytown in the true spirit of community makes sure that everyone receives a gift for Christmas, thanks to generous donations.

Barry is part of all of this.  This is truly home – a permanent, safe, decent and affordable home where Barry can sleep and cook and do laundry, get his mail and even watch television in the tenant lounge.  He has friends here that do not judge him and housing support workers who can offer guidance and counselling when he asks for it.   Barry’s life is so much richer for having connected to Options Bytown.  He is part of the Options Bytown community where he is able to thrive.

By donating to Options Bytown you will be helping vulnerable people like Barry to change their lives around and to realize a life worth living. Please give so that all the Barrys who come to Options Bytown will have a second chance.

  At this special time of year Options Bytown would like to wish you and yours a very safe and happy holiday season.

Molly's Return to Hope

She was a new face at an Options Bytown apartment building with a familiar story.  Molly came from a past filled with sadness, suffering, fear and anger.  When she was just 3 years old she was pulled out of her birth family and brought to live in foster care.  In just one day, there was no more mother, no more father and no more brothers and sisters.  All that was familiar was gone. She was a lone little girl amongst strangers.
She wondered what she had done wrong and that was the thought she kept wondering about long after the day she lost her family. 

From the first days of her new life with her foster family Molly’s sadness consumed her waking hours.  She would be distraught and cry continuously for the ones she loved and now were gone.  She would be uncooperative in the simplest tasks.  Her foster parents lost their patience and would keep her segregated where her crying continued hour after hour.   One day the crying stopped.  The tiny spark inside the little girl was gone.  Molly realized that she had no one in her life that cared and no real reason to care about much.   Life was an empty void for her.

At 16 Molly tried to take her life.  Her life was spared that day when a neighbour walking his dog one night found her unconscious body in the back parking lot of the local school.  This was a close call for Molly and after reviewing her past psychological history her doctor suspected this would not be her last attempt. Molly was sent into treatment where after time she learned that losing her family was not her fault.   Fast forward a decade, Molly is living by herself.  Now she is alone by choice.  Her life has been a series of ups and downs with scant periods of employment and frequent periods of homelessness.  Molly was living in a women’s shelter when she was approached by the shelter’s housing worker.  The housing worker told her about Options Bytown’s supportive housing services and explained to her that there were no barriers for her if she wanted to live there.  Options Bytown offers safe, decent, affordable and permanent housing for anyone at risk of homelessness.  She was encouraged to apply to get on the waiting list.

Molly jumped at the chance to have a place of her own where she would not have to worry about her safety or losing her belongings in a shelter.  She finally moved into an Options Bytown apartment.  She has a home that is clean, warm and all hers. In addition, her rent is affordable.  She would not lose her housing if she lost her job at any time.

Best of all, if Molly feels like she cannot cope with her anxiety and her fragile mental health, she has the supports right in her building to help her.  The Options Bytown on-site housing support workers are there to counsel her, to connect her to outside agencies if she needs further help, and to offer her life skills training to help with her coping.  Molly need never be alone again.

Good News...Molly is now working two days a week as a cleaner with the possibility of more work in the future.  She has found her birth mother and has reconnected again and she is receiving regular counselling for her anxiety.

For Molly and so many others like her, Options Bytown has been a lifeline. Options Bytown provides the vulnerable that in some cases have never experienced a permanent home, with the one important thing they need - a home of their own and supports in place to help them keep it. 

From Hopelessness to Hope

Julie is only 22 years old but she has lived a lifetime filled many times over with unhappiness and despair.    It began as soon as she was born.  Julie was several months premature at birth. Her parents did not want her and she was given up for adoption. When she was well enough to leave the hospital she was left in the care of the Children’s Aid Society.   At some point Julie was adopted only to be given up again at 12 years of age when she experienced behaviour and anger issues.  She was entrusted to a group home for a couple of years where the environment was extremely strict and structured and her behavioural issues escalated. When she spoke up she was chastised.  When she did not obey the rules she was censured. Acting out is disruptive and was not permitted in a group home.  Julie took out her feelings and frustrations by several attempts at running away, self mutilation and suicide attempts.

At 14 Julie left the group home and wound up in another foster home. Her acting out and anger continued and in response she was treated cruelly by her foster parents. After a suicide attempt she wound up in a psych ward of the local hospital and within two weeks without interventions she was released and sent to live in yet another foster home.  That lasted 5 months and Julie ran away.   At 16 Julie found herself again in hospital and when released was sent to a group home where she formed a close bond to another girl there.  This was the first real friend Julie ever had.   Tragedy hit. Julie’s friend suffered from depression from years of disappointment and took her own life. This was the last straw for Julie and having no will to keep going  Julie stopped eating and went down to a dangerous body weight. There seemed to be nothing for her to live for and in her world hopelessness lived everywhere.   The group home supervisor knew Julie had to be part of something to get her mind off the sadness she was feeling and asked Julie if she wanted to work with developmentally delayed kids. The kids were very needy and grateful for any attention they could garner.  Julie connected with them immediately and now she had purpose.  She loved her job.  She took great pride in helping these kids feel cared about. That time stuck out in Julie’s mind as the best experience of her life.

Julie eventually moved on and was now 20 years old. She was outside the age limit for Children’s Aid and had to make her own way couch surfing and living in shelters.  She was having difficulty knowing what to do with her life.  Julie was referred to the Options Bytown Housing First Case Manager. She recalls the meeting where she was told that she did not have to live in a shelter anymore.  At Options Bytown she could have her own permanent apartment.  If she needed help of any kind an on-site Housing Support Worker would be available 7 days a week to assist her. This was exactly what Julie needed and she jumped at the chance.

Julie has been living at Options Bytown for 10 months – the longest stay she has achieved anywhere and she says she would like to stay right where she is forever.  She has a cat that she loves dearly.  She visits with the housing support workers daily. She says she feels stable and safe and has plans for her future.  Her plans include achieving an academic and career entrance certificate so that she can complete her education to become a social worker one day.

Options Bytown has been Julie’s life line.  At the 2016 Options Bytown Annual General Meeting Julie addressed the audience with a speech she wrote about what Options Bytown meant to her  and her gratitude for the staff helping her find her way.

Options Bytown’s mission is to offer permanent housing and supports to assist people at risk of homelessness live independently and enrich their lives. Julie is just one example of the success of one of the many courageous people who benefit from Options Bytown’s supportive housing services.

My Life is Back on Track

“I feel safe.  I feel cared about.”

Richard moved to Options Bytown in December of 2015 and since then his life has taken the right turn. He was unhappy and frustrated with the conditions where he had previously lived and discussed a move somewhere else.  Options Bytown was suggested as a safe, permanent housing opportunity and Richard agreed and moved into an apartment at 380 Cumberland Street.   Housing support workers try to make the transition to an Options Bytown apartment as uncomplicated as possible for the tenant. Plans are made in advance to ensure the new tenant can be successful in keeping their housing for the long term.

The first thing they did for Richard was to help him de-clutter his vast amount of belongings.  They helped him to organize his apartment and continue to work with him on cues around discarding of clutter.  They provided him with a cue card to help him with his budgeting.  The cue card asks simple questions like, “Do you really need this item?” His new apartment is now clean and easier to keep tidy and he is working hard on his hoarding issues.   Richard loves to eat and cook and he participated in the weekly breakfast program, baking group and collective kitchen activities from the very beginning.  He is proud to announce that he has learned to make spaghetti with meat sauce (one of his favourite dishes).  The housing support worker referred Richard to Ottawa Carleton Life Skills to learn proper budgeting and healthy eating habits. Richard has a job  at Walmart where he works  20 hours a week and he volunteers at the Good Day Workshop where he is busy helping to repair and refinish wooden furniture. 

Options Bytown has provided Richard with a rich mosaic of neighbourhood connections and activities in order to make friends and become part of a community.  He appreciates the support he receives from the staff at 380 Cumberland St. and says that it really makes him feel safe and cared about. Richard is the first to say that his life is back on track because he is living in permanent, safe housing with supports.  Living in an Options Bytown supportive housing apartment has enabled him to achieve independence and live a lifestyle where he can find contentment.

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