TURNING KIDS OF THE NIGHT INTO CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT

Rev. S. Brandt

Our downtown streets destroy people, especially youth. Over the past decade with Ottawa Innercity Ministries, I have seen many kids hit the streets thinking that life downtown is a party only to find themselves trapped in the bondage of addiction and despair.
It is a scavenger lifestyle, a restless hunt for cash or anything that can be converted into a bed or a meal or drugs to help the person escape reality for one more day. We have very few shelter beds for homeless teenagers in the Ottawa area.
Through Ottawa Innercity ministries outreach we meet teens sleeping under bridges, in alleyways or in roach ridden crack houses where nothing is certain but danger and change. There is no privacy, no individual space and no stability. Suicide is the leading cause of death among this population. A young man who lived under a bridge in downtown Ottawa hanged himself from a tree along the canal. So many teens end up feeling like they are no one to nobody, they feel like they do not matter.
Ottawa Innercity Ministries is involved with providing a healing community to those on the our streets. Over the years we have become part of Ottawa’s street scene through street outreach in our streets, parks, alleys and rooming houses, and through our street “no hassle” health clinics.
Many of the homeless girls are pregnant. Many are addicted to alcohol, crack, cocaine, heroin, glue etc.. High priced addictive drugs bring about an increase of crime and violence. Many self-medicate for painful life experiences. We offer counseling for survivors of trauma. I hear horror stories of sexual abuse, family violence, battering and self-mutilation. Many use words like NUMB and EMPTY to describe how they feel. I believe that teens have important things to say. I believe if a teen is loved, valued and taught truths about life, they will have the tools necessary to make good decisions into
their adulthood. I meet many teens with a great spiritual emptiness, a longing for inner peace and maening. We invite conversations on all topics. How important it is to be heard.
There is tremendous pressure these days. Media is a big influence. Television, films, videos and music all offer a high powered and overwhelming diet of violence, dehumanized sex, murder, rape and greed. It comes as no surprise that vulnerable youth are desensitized to the feelings of others after a lifetime exposure of violence as entertainment.
At Ottawa Innercity Ministries we help youth help themselves make good decisions towards health, wholeness and a future. Life on the street makes you sick. Many youth are involved in prostitution that they call “survival sex” and many have HIV, Aids, Hepatitis and Tuberculosis. Some run to the streets to save their own lives, some are pushed out and others leave OK homes believing in the neon of the downtown streets. I tell them all that I care. I praise and I encourage their good decisions.
We work in anger management, addiction recovery and help youth reconnect with family and school. Our organization is like one beggar helping another. We live on donations and we do not work for the government. We are one neighbour helping another.
I tell teens “You can be an agent of change. You can make a difference. I know the streets run right up the corridor of most high schools. You can help your neighbour. You can use the help of your peer helpers. Ask for help when you need it. Be your own person. You are responsible. You do not have to follow the crowd. You can make positive choices toward health and wholeness.”
‘Shift your thinking from “I am entitled” to “I am grateful”. Develop a passion for something that positively changes your world. Get involved. Live peacefully. Be compassionate and caring. Accept diversity and differences. Have Hope. Trust God. You can make a difference.’

Anatomy of a prostitute
Did you know that the average age of entry into prostitution is 13½ years?
Did you know that most young prostitutes come from abusive backgrounds?
Did you know 50 per cent of prostitutes are homeless or runaways?
Did you know pimps often recruit young girls in malls or schools?
Did you know girls who are involved in prostitution suffer from low self-esteem? This may be the result of an abusive home and is often the reason they fall for the pimp’s initial ‘charm.’
Did you know that, on average, prostitutes die just eight years after entering the trade? Some of the causes of death include:
cervical cancer
AIDS
hepatitis
suicide
murder

Anatomy of a pimp
At first, a pimp will act like a caring and good friend, but he will soon change into a demanding and cruel boss.
There are three ways a pimp will attempt to recruit new prostitutes:
seduction
force, coercion or threats
kidnapping (rare in Western Canada)
If you were to overhear a pimp when he first talks to a victim, you would hear a lot of caring words and tempting promises. But if you could cut through his act to the true meaning of his words, this is what you would hear:
First, I will seduce you with promises and dreams I have no intention of fulfilling. I will buy you some cheap trinkets and bargain-basement clothes.
After you fall in love with me, I will pass you around to strangers for money. I will cut you off from your friends and family. I will tell you when to get up, what to eat and what to wear.
You will work 15 hours a day and give every cent to me. If you keep any money, I will hit you with my fists and feet or whip you with a coat hanger.
If you go to the police, I will intimidate and threaten you, or maybe try to have you killed.
When would you like to start work?