There’s Always Room for One More

Jun 20, 2013 by

This is Jaime’s story.

I am so cold and I need sleep.  I had been staying with my buddy off and on sleeping on his couch but I know I am wearing out my welcome.  I am pretty new to Ottawa being a native of Montreal and he is the only one I can trust.

Life has been kind of tough lately.  I lost my job and my apartment because of my problem with the bottle.  I couldn’t make the payments on my truck and lost that.  I can’t even afford my smokes.  It is getting close to Christmas but I have nothing to celebrate.  I need a break, just one break.

I came to Shepherds of Good Hope looking for a place to crash for the night and was told that there were no more beds left.  I guess when it is this cold nobody wants to sleep on the street.  They said I could sleep on a mat on the kitchen floor and I accepted.  It is better than the alleyway.  I did that last night and came close to losing the thumb on my left hand from frost bite.  It is aching with each beat of my heart, is really swollen and peeling pretty badly today.

I lay on the mat and someone handed me a pillow and covered me with a blanket.  The kitchen was warm and I fell asleep fast.  When I woke up the next morning this guy called Martin handed me a towel and some soap and told me where the showers were in the shelter.  He said when I was finished I should come back across the street and have breakfast and maybe grab some warmer clothes from the clothing program. He also said to come back at 4:30 in the afternoon in order to make sure I had a bed tonight.  I had a good breakfast at the Soup Kitchen. The coffee was hot and much appreciated.

Another day passed and then a week.  I got to know some of the guys on the street.  They told me a few of their stories and I told them mine.  Like mine, some of these guys just fell on hard times.  All they needed, too was a break.  I learned through my network that I could find work in the Byward Market seven days a week unloading the produce from trucks.  This work was steady but it was hard work and it was taking a toll on my hip. As Christmas was nearing, I could barely walk and some of the police would see me struggling and drive me to work and back. It was becoming more and more clear I needed to have my hip replaced.

The nursing staff at Shepherds of Good Hope were making that happen.  Unable to work because of my surgery, the staff at Shepherds of Good Hope hooked me up with government services so that I could have some social assistance.

Suddenly, it was Christmas Eve.  Martin asked me if I knew what was happening tonight and I shrugged my shoulders.  There in the darkness of the parking lot were burning barrels and I could hear carols being sung by a choir all bundled up for winter chill of the evening.  It was Christmas Eve Mass for the homeless complete with a huge manger scene.  I found my way across the street and stood mesmerized. Someone handed me a cup of hot chocolate and I listened to what the man in the robes was saying about not losing hope.  It was as if he was talking just to me.  I was in this crowd of the poor and the homeless together.  I heard what he said and I believed.

That was almost a year ago and that evening will be forever etched in my memory.  That was my turning point, my break.

Today, it is a very different story.  I have a great place to live at the Oaks, a Shepherds of Good Hope Supportive Housing Complex on Merivale Road. I have my own bedroom with a private bathroom.  I share a communal dining area with the other residents and we live as a community.  I can tell you Shepherds of Good Hope saved my life and is saving the lives of men and women every day.

I will never forget the help I received when I was at my lowest.  If not for You and the support you have given to Shepherds of Good Hope I would not be here now. I am so grateful that you care.

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