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Coming to Canada Was Not A Choice

Amina is a 29 year old woman who came to Canada from Ethiopia in 2012.  This was not a choice for Amina.  It was a time of great civil unrest and Amina was witness to relatives and friends dying around her. She knew she had to flee or possibly lose her life.   Being all alone in a foreign country and not knowing the language or customs was a life changing and challenging experience for Amina. This was Amina’s situation.  The first thing she needed was an interpreter to help navigate the myriad of tasks related to settling in a new country. Apart from the language and cultural differences Amina had to get used to very different weather conditions. She woke up one winter morning in disbelief. She thought that the snow she was looking at was flour spread all over the ground.  She walked outside, felt its cold wetness and marveled at what this was. In Ethiopia there is never snow.

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Melissa - From Rags to Riches

Melissa – Rags to Riches

Melissa went from rags to riches.  Her life was a series of moves in and out of institutions, in and out of hospitals and in and out of rooming houses.  During her life Melissa was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder which caused tremendous euphoria one minute and desperation and despair the next.   She knew she could not live alone because she needed support to help her with her illness but hospitals and institutions could not house her forever and so she felt like she was pushed out onto the street. Once on the street she was totally alone and it wouldn’t be long before she would crash and wind up in hospital again.  The cycle just kept repeating itself.

One day a social worker paid Melissa a visit and told her about Options Bytown.  She explained to her that this was supportive housing which meant she could live on her own but if she needed help of any kind people would be there to assist her.  There would be staff available if she became frightened, confused or depressed.  They could get her the help from other agencies in the community as well so that she would not need to go into hospitals and institutions again.

Melissa thought she was dreaming.  This was the answer to her prayers and so when released from hospital she made her way to 380 Cumberland Street where she signed her lease and changed her life forever.

The first night in her apartment was exhilarating.  She climbed into the bathtub and had a long bubble bath.  She had never been able to do that before.  She ate cereal for dinner – just because she could.  She felt safe outside of hospital for the first time.  She had access to a laundry room, a tenant lounge with a big screen TV and had a key to a mailbox that was hers.

Today, Melissa visits with the housing support workers daily and takes part in life skills’ training and workshops and goes with others in the building to outings like the maple sugar bush, trips to the beach and BBQs.  She has made friends and feels a real sense of community at Options Bytown.

She is grateful for every day that she is in safe, permanent housing with the supports that she needs.  This is her home.

Jean's Story

JeanBrayUpon meeting Jean anyone will notice how bubbly and happy she is. She is quick with a smile and her eyes have a permanent twinkle in them.

Jean lives in one of the Ottawa Community Housing apartment communities where Options Bytown has a resource centre for those living in the building and requiring supports to live independently. The Housing Support Worker in the Options Bytown Resource Centre helps tenants on site who face challenges due to a history of homelessness, addictions, mental illness, poverty and other kinds of trauma. For well over 25 years Options Bytown has helped countless individuals to stay housed through their on-site support services.

Jean moved to Ottawa Community Housing 9 years ago. At that time, she was bitter, sullen and stuck in an anger fuelled from her past. She rarely made eye contact with anyone and she kept to herself.

Jean recounts learning as a young child that she was not wanted in her family. As she says, her homelife was miserable, Her parents had no interest in her or her brothers and mistreated them for years. Jean seemed especially targeted. She was the brunt of verbal abuse that cut deep emotional wounds. Early on, Jean was diagnosed with a learning disability and required extra educational support throughout school. She was reminded of her disability by her family time and time again and that caused her great emotional pain. She thought that she was stupid and undeserving of love.

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Michelle's Story

Wake me up, I'm dreaming

Moving to Options Bytown was like a miracle as far as I'm concerned. I had been living in and out of institutions, hospitals and rooming houses for years before I moved to Options Bytown. The rooming houses in particular weren't really very healthy for a single woman.

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  1. Amy's Story

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