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Homeless youth arts program forced to find new studio space – Ottawa

An arts program for homeless youth in Ottawa is itself looking for a new home after being forced out of its downtown studio.

On Saturday morning, Jay Labovitch and a dozen other youth with Ottawa Innercity Ministries met for the last time at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which is about to undergo major renovations.

They packed up their easels, canvases and musical instruments, filling the moving truck waiting outside.

“It’s so hard to pack up where you’ve made your memories,” Labovitch said. “We’re going to find something. We’re going to make it work.”

Every Wednesday and Thursday evening, dozens of youth gather at the downtown church, creating art and sharing a warm meal provided by Ottawa Innercity Ministries staff.

As part of the program, youth are paired up with an adult mentor who helps them set and achieve personal goals.

Forced out of their rental space due to renovations, volunteers and youth with Ottawa Innercity Ministries load up a moving truck donated by Dymon Storage. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

After living on the street for several years, Labovitch, 21, said she felt at home when she joined Ottawa Innercity Ministries two years ago.

“When I come here, I let loose,” she said. “It means so much. We have hundreds of dollars of equipment. When I was homeless, I didn’t have three dollars to go to the dollar store to buy a canvas.”

Steering clear of trouble

Labovitch credits the friends she’s made through the program for helping her stay sober, having overcome an addiction to amphetamines.

“So many of us can appreciate what OIM has done,” she said. “It kept us yearning for something. Knowing we have this every Thursday, it definitely keeps me going.”

Like Labovitch, Larissa-Jean Hannah-Nikolai, 24, has been attending the program for the past two years.

Larissa-Jean Hannah-Nicolai, 24, sits in the Ottawa Innercity Ministries arts space at the St. Peter and St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Sunday, Jan. 13,…

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