Today, as part of the Own Our Ottawa campaign, I am highlighting Operation Come Home, an organization focuses on helping vulnerable and homeless youth.
Tell me a little bit about your organization/initiative.
Operation Come Home (OCH) is an organization in Ottawa that helps vulnerable and homeless youth to get back on their feet. We do this by creating programs that are innovative and not your typical “let us help you find a job” type of programming. We have social enterprises which are businesses that OCH operates with a primary focus of employing youth who otherwise can’t retain jobs elsewhere. Through their placement with the social enterprise, they are provided with much needed social support to work on problems such as housing, addictions, education and much more. Then the social enterprise also focuses on teaching youth the value of punctuality, professionalism and other key characteristics that will make it much easier for them to retain jobs in the community after their placement with OCH.
OCH also operates an alternative high school out of our building in partnership with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. We were the first organization geared towards targeting homeless youth that developed this partnership and since its inception 11 years ago, over 70 homeless and vulnerable have graduated from high school who otherwise likely would not have.
The building also houses two employment programs that have stepped away from the traditional “train and place” model to a more efficient system that not only ensures better initial success, but also increases job retention of the participants. There is an entrepreneurship program where youth are provided the coaching to develop a business plan, start their own business and are granted up to $3,000 in funds for start-up costs. We operate the only youth drop-in open during the morning time in Ottawa and have over 536 unique clients (2016 stats) who access our various services throughout the year. Operation Come Home also has two housing programs that operate under the Housing First Model developed by Stephen Gaetz and we also offer an addictions program.
All in all, Operation Come Home works diligently to implement and develop programs that work for youth. Everyone is welcome in our building and everyone has the potential to be whatever they want to be. This is what we’re about – providing chances to youth who felt they had none.
What do you do to #OwnOurOttawa?
OCH partners and collaborates. There are so many wonderful initiatives happening here, it’s just a matter of picking your favourite and working together. A few examples of how we’ve able to partner with the community include:
- The Sky Lounge that allowed guests to eat dinner while suspended 150 feet in the air donated all of their empty wine and liquor bottles to OCH’s BottleWorks social enterprise.
- Craft breweries across the city have joined our Growler Exchange Program to support an expansion of the BottleWorks program (some partners include: Beau’s All Natural Brewing, Dominion City Brewing, Bicycle Craft Brewing, Broadhead Brewery, Broken Stick, Covered Bridge, Crooked Mile, Nita, Whiprsnarpr and many more!)
We bet you didn’t know there were so many craft breweries in Ottawa – be sure to check them out when you visit!
- We hosted a “Poor Chefs Competition” where chefs from restaurants across Ottawa were asked to prepare a dish for only $3.14. This is the amount that would be left to spend on a day of food after all of your other expenses living on Ontario Works.
- We’ve partnered with the Bank Street BIA who employs youth from Operation Come Home during special events and festivals like Glowfair.
- We’ve partnered with 3 Starbucks locations who donate their pastries and baked goods to Operation Come Home and volunteer at special events. (Bank and Third, Bank and Sunnyside and 62 York Street).
- Mealshare partners with restaurants who provide a menu item for customers to select and with every purchase of that meal, a dollar is donated to Operation Come Home.
- Our meal delivery social enterprise, FoodWorks, has partnered with Dunn’s on Elgin Street to rent their kitchen, post our menu items on UberEats, tag onto their orders and collaborate on events.
And so much more!
Why do you think it’s important to #OwnOurOttawa?
It’s important to #OwnOurOttawa because other people need to know what’s going on! There are so many new intiatives and exciting projects popping every day from “La Machine” where giant robots will literally be wandering the streets of downtown Ottawa to the Feline Cat Café where cat lovers can enjoy a coffee while spending time with kittens. We want to let Canada know that when they visit Ottawa, there’s a whole lot to do and see if they look around!
If someone wants to get involved or get more information, where can they go?
They can visit our website or they can contact Lynda Franc for more information.Of course, if anyone just wants to receive updates of what we’re up to, they can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too!