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.
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.