It’s Christmas… and I’m Goin Home – Bill Wood Video

Because Christmas…

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is just past – I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends. I know we were certainly fortunate to have so many people drop in and visit Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was even better, time spent with my parents for brunch and then a visit to our close friends in Hamilton where the proverbial feast was held.

It’s a time of year to be thankful and remember what the word home means to all of us. The music video here is from my old friend Bill Wood, a veteran of the Canadian music industry, who still turns out powerful and energetic original tunes in a style all his own. “I’m Goin Home”, is one of the best new Christmas songs I have heard in a long time. The chorus, “…it’s Christmas”, stays in my head and in my heart. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Now New Year’s is coming! After a long hiatus, I expect the MissionLog blog to take on a new life for 2014 with a greater focus on street level organizations that are making a real difference by helping and housing the homeless.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Andy — @canayjun

Winter in Burlington

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Christmas Eve 2009 – Special Events

Christmas Holy Night Star of Bethlehem - Jesus Christ is born

O’ Holy Night

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior— yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!


Thank-you to all my readers of the Missonlog blog.  Hope you all have a blessed Christmas and joyous New Year! –

<>< Andy Coats

Follow me  @canayjun on Twitter

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward everyone.

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Galaxy

homelessness homeless #whyhomeless

home-less

Knox Dinner and Food Bank for Homeless Street Youth

The Roots of the Knox Youth Dinner & Food Bank

Formerly:  Knox Toronto – First Nations Gospel Assembly – Out of the Cold Program

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Many people ask me just what types of programs and services, other than our nightly street sandwich runs to the homeless, that Project417  operates in Toronto. One of the most amazing programs in the city is the Knox Youth Dinner & Foodbank that runs every winter from November to April on Tuesday nights.  The Knox program was a joint grassroots effort of our director Joe Elkerton and a group of willing Knox volunteers headed by Vicki and Bill Wood.  The program is entirely operated by Knox now – and that is Project417’s vision,  to mobilize community groups to establish sustainable services for the homeless. Personally, I’ve helped with the program for over six years and more than half a dozen Project417 team leaders show up every week to help the other volunteers.

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It’s where I have made friends with dozens of Toronto street youth like the girl named ‘R’. In 2008 I was invited to join a “street family”.  This is a family unit (as opposed to gangs) formed by homeless and underhoused kids out on the streets to replace their traditional families – to care for each other, watch each other’s backs, advocate for family members, share shelter, food, information and income.  This “family” was the largest of its kind in Canada.  My friends Mick and Ozz nominated me at a family meeting and I was the first to be unanimously voted in. They are my people, my little brothers and sisters – I love every one of them. Many are housed now, working, finishing high school, studying at university and raising their own families. It all started out on the streets of Toronto, and Tuesday nights at Knox.

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History:

On December 9, 1997, the congregation of Knox church, in conjunction with First Nations’ Gospel Assembly, opened its doors for the first time to the homeless and poor street youth in Toronto, following the Out of the Cold program model.  The idea for the program came from  Joe Elkerton of  First Nations’ Gospel Assembly – a church program of Ekklesia Inner City Ministries – Project417 (for native peoples).  Joe approached us at Knox after having to close a program at another downtown church after less than a full season.  Joe was familiar with the Out of the Cold (OOTC) philosophy and program format, and with a long-time ministry to homeless street youth and First Nations aboriginals,  felt there was a need for a similar program targeting street youth specifically.  The youth tend to feel uncomfortable at adult shelters.  At the same time,  a small group of us at Knox were looking at ways our church could expand its work in its own community.

We started as a pilot program in two ways:  Knox Toronto Session approved a one-year pilot, and  our program was submitted as a new church member of  Out of the Cold for one year. Almost immediately upon starting this program, we learned that a youth program is not the same as an adult Out of the Cold program.knox3

For one thing, we couldn’t expect to simply open our doors and wait for street kids to come to us. We had to build some trust first. So for the first year we would have volunteers with Project417 out in a van handing out sandwiches and inviting kids to come to Knox. The need for such a place soon became apparent,  as just about everyone who came once became a regular, and told their friends. On our first night we fed 10 youth and six slept the night. By that February, we were averaging 35 guests per night. (Now we serve more than one hundred youth).

We continued the Project417 van runs to deliver food to people outside and to youth who still didn’t want to come inside for the night. It gave us a presence on the street and also helped show our volunteers where our guests come from, which really helped them to relate to the kids.

Another difference: we had planned to serve an early evening meal at a set time, and then move on to quiet activities and then sleeping time, But we soon found that our young guests were not always prepared to come in for the night right at our opening time. Our vision of a big family-style sit down meal for everyone had to be re-arranged a little. Now we serve dinner at 6:30 for all guests and volunteers who are there, but kids trickle in throughout the night, and are welcome to eat whenever they are ready.

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Activities we offer at Knox include:  basketball, games, bowling (we need volunteers to help set the pins in our two-lane bowling alley), movies, hair colouring and haircuts, bingo, chess, lots of home made desserts, popcorn and conversation. Recent additions include a couple of donated guitars that the kids like to use, and we have initiated bi-weekly music nights, where a couple of volunteers bring in an amp and mics and guitars and drums and welcome any of the kids to join in an impromptu concert. We also have a volunteer set up a sewing table with sewing machine, repairing clothing and teaching anyone who wants to learn.  Often we have arts and crafts, which is quite popular. If we have the extra hands, we’ll offer foot baths/massages. We have a community nurse on duty. Our volunteers range in ages from 14 to 82. More than half have been volunteering for more than five years.

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For several years, employees from the Royal Bank Financial Group made it possible for us to extend the Knox program to two nights. That partnership worked very well and we are so thankful for their participation, but RBC downsizing and resultant loss of volunteers caused that extra evening program to be cancelled.  If any group is interested in starting a similar program, the space is available and we would be happy to offer any help possible!

Quite a few of the regulars just like to talk to whoever will listen. We feel the most valuable thing we offer is a safe place where they can be themselves for the night, ask for whatever they want and share their stories (true or not!). As of three years ago, many of the youth began to get housed through the Streets2Homes program and the number of youth staying overnight grew less.  As a result, the Out-of-the-Cold “overnight” portion was shut down until the need increased.

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The program has evolved for those youth – many with no income or low income and sharing “under-housed” conditions – into the current Knox Youth Dinner and weekly Foodbank:

Everyone is fed a hot, home-cooked meal (we serve restaurant style and volunteers are encouraged to join the youth at table to share a meal also) and given a bag of groceries. The new season opens November 3, 2009. We need your help to once again keep the shelves stocked. Please consider buying one extra item during your weekly shopping. Items needed include:

  • Any canned foods, fish, pasta, beans, vegetables, fruit
  • Peanut butter
  • Dry Pasta
  • Soups
  • Kraft Dinner
  • Coffee, tea
  • Toilet paper
  • Vegetable oil
  • Condiments: hot sauce, mustard, ketchup, relish
  • Cereals
  • Cookies, treats
  • Cleaning Products

While food is the most practical and effective help you can provide, we also accept donations of plastic and cloth shopping bags, clean plastic lidded containers and clean lidded jars. We also accept socks, underware, jeans, winter coats and boots.

More than 100 youth are served every week – Tuesday nights from 6:30 til 9pm.  Consider volunteering.

( The original version of this history, by program coordinator Vicki Wood, appeared on the website of Knox Church at http://www.knoxtoronto.org and the Missionlog’s GeoCities site. ) Enjoy the photos!

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Me and my brother, James

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GeoCities closing – the original Mission_log site moves here to WordPress

Sad but true, Geocities is closing –

I created one of my first websites there – called it the Mission_log, it was located at http://ca.geocities.com/mission_log/ (it’s still there until Yahoo! pulls the plug on all the sites later this summer) I’ve been referring web visitors here to the new WordPress Mission Log since September of 2007, but back in the day that little GeoCities site really helped get the news out about the homeless and my work with Project417.

The older logo of mission_log project417

One of the logos of mission_log project417

What was Geocities? How soon they forget.  Geocities grew out of a small internet start-up called BHI – Beverly Hills Internet back in 1994, changed names to the current one in 1995 and quickly grew to one of the busiest sites on the web, by 1999 it was the 3rd most visited website behind AOL and Yahoo!  Before the dotcom bubble burst, Yahoo purchased Geocities for billions, but it never reached its former popularity as Yahoo!Geocities (which was where I joined in) It had grown to popularity by offering ordinary users a free place to host their personal website – and offered a strong array of tools to help design the sites. Yahoo added to those – but as you can see if you visit the old site, the pages always managed to look a little clunky, and to get any kind of custom look I had to try my hand at raw HTML editing, which can be daunting. But it was a learning experience, and I found several open source WYSIWYG applications like NVu to help edit the html.

The first missionlog logo

The first missionlog logo

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My first post there was in 2004 (actually, ported over from an earlier Sympatico home page, which continued to show up in search engine cached results for many years after it was taken down – the internet has ghosts).  It was when I first left my job at Meteor Telecommunications to work for Project417 fulltime helping the homeless in Toronto. I used it as a kind of newsletter (blogs were not so popular back then) to let folks know what was going on in my life, to appeal for donations to Project417, and to tell stories about the homeless people I met out on the streets of Toronto. Often the content matched the hardcopy newsletters I was producing on an old blue bondi  iMac computer (which I still have, disassembled in storage)

Using a work-around here on wordpress that actually is for future scheduling of posts, I can change the date field back to the original dates of the original mission_log articles – so I’ll be importing them and they’ll show up in the archives like Back to the Future…

The first is the Toronto Sun Letter of the Day from 2005.

To be continued…

Concert Fundraiser for Bloor Lansdowne Community Dinner

Bloor Lansdowne Community Dinner presents

A Cup of Cold Water

in concert, Saturday May 23rd at 7:00 pm

Where: 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario

South side of Bloor Street, just west of Lansdowne, steps from the Lansdowne TTC subway stop, extra parking at the Value Village next door

Why?

A “Pay What You Can” fundraiser with all proceeds going to support the weekly Wednesday night community dinner. For over a year BLCF has been hosting a free meal program for residents of the neighbourhood – homeless or under-housed, lonely seniors, young single parent families, residents of nearby transitional housing and the working poor. Every week we have more than sixty guests, some nights serving over one hundred home-cooked meals.

This is not a “soup kitchen’ program. It’s more like inviting neighbours over for dinner. Developed and operated in partnership with Project417. The tables are set, the ambiance is friendly and we serve our guests at the table restaurant style – hearty and homemade meals and tasty desserts. Dinner is served fr0m, 6 to 8pm. All night there is live music – folk, roots rock, acoustic – often featuring our friend Terry, guitarist / vocalist and songwriter of the duo A Cup of Cold Water.

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BLCF Bloor Lansdowne Community DinnerBloor Lansdowne CommunityDinner is hosted by the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship at the church located at 1307 Bloor Street West, where they have been serving the local area for more than 70 years.

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Come on down for a great night out and help feed the hungry right in our neighborhood. Questions, call (416)535-9578

On the web at blcf.info

Visit the Facebook group

Youth Grafitti Artists still treated as criminals

tagged!

tagged!

Grafitti – a fact of life in most urban areas, has always been a topic of much controversy. Some see it as art and expression, while others see it as vandalism, and a barometer of criminal gang activities. All municipalities have laws prohibiting grafitti to varying degrees and by far the majority of grafitti and “tagging” is created by youth. [ all photos with the article by ACoats 2007]

Reported last week on the CBC – “Manitoba man arrested after posting graffiti on Facebook“. [note – the man was a youth under 17 when posting the tags – A tag is the unique, stylized signature of the person who created the graffiti]

And my comments posted with the cbc.ca article:

Grafitti: nuisance and crime? or, art and free speech? The majority flows from the spray cans and brushes of our youth – as was this “creator”. Is it vandalism, or expression? Which is more visually disturbing – a taggers signature, or a giant 50% OFF SALE sign? Which is more depressing to see plastered all over the city – grafitti artists’ tags and names or public signage in bold black and red, “NO LOITERING”, “NO SHIRTS, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE”? Note to business owners – you want attention? Engage a tagger to liven up that blank concrete wall or make your window display more relevant. Note to Selkirk and St. Clements’ councils and the RCMP – treating grafitti as crime will never end it. You need to support community initiatives which give youth alternatives to gangs. You have far worse problems in your midst than tagging. The Five Man Electrical Band’s anthem, “Signs” is still worth a listen…

Living and working on the streets of Toronto, I see my share of grafitti and I feel it falls into four categories: street art, social commentary, tagging and lastly destructive defacement. You can see from the photo below, that this tag has a destructive element in blocking a store window. You should also know that the storefront was empty for months, and the only view it offered to the street was peeling, yellowed newspaper taped in place.

window grafitti on SpadinaIt could have been worse – in this area, taggers have taken to using glass cutters on windows to carve their grafitti right into the window, causing shopowners to replace the whole window at a very high cost. This is destructive tagging as protest and defacement.

So Hip It Hurts mural

So Hip It Hurts mural

Here, on Queen Street West in Toronto, a clothing store commissioned a large grafitti mural on a second floor sidewall of their store. Normally, I find these murals remain untouched, but this one has been defaced by other street artists and taggers alike.

City of Angels muralAlso on Queen West, the City of Angels store mural has remained untouched by taggers for years, and Grossman’s Tavern, a blues club, has had it’s beautiful yellow facade left untouched until only recently.

Grossmans Tavern or Big Yellow

Grossmans Tavern or Big Yellow

apple iPod grafitti :: Compare street artists, taggers and other grafitti to    the  corporate grafitti and other “approved” legal signage and banners around the city. Which is more pleasing to the eye? Apple’s iPod campaign at the left or the literally thousands of signs that compete for space in the same Chinatown district so plagued by grafitti. Maybe taggers  are reacting to the senseless commercial sign pollution of their neighbourhoods.

Is Toronto's sign bylaw being obeyed?

Is Toronto's sign bylaw being obeyed?

Then there’s the famous “Hug me tree” on Queen West. The photo below is as it appeared a couple of years ago, but then a turf war broke out between the original street artist, who’d cared for it for years, and a newcomer who thought the space deserved a change.  They’ve repainted and sculpted it back and forth and it now stands in disrepair. Perhaps the spring weather will bring it new life.

Hug Me TreeIn the following three photos compare the street art graffiti  to bland booze ads or blank crumbling brick.  Is the painted over brick better esthetically than the tag it covered?

Contrast - which is more appealing?

Contrast - which is more appealing?

Street Artist depicts Toronto homeless

I was contacted by a family friend last week,  Dan Bergeron. Dan has been commissioned by the ROM – the ROM is holding an exhibition over the next few months to showcase street art that depicts the lives of the street homeless, the struggle for affordable housing and to commemorate Toronto’s Tent City. The project, called Housepaint2, first grew out of a Luminato installation on the site of the former Tent City on Toronto’s port lands down by the harbour. In the summer of 2008, Luminato sponsored the Housepaint installation which consisted of canvas houses on which street artists were invited to portray the homeless and issues connected to the lack of housing.

Tent city was a squat on abandoned property just south of the Gardiner overpass, east of Jarvis, which grew slowly in the 90s until it housed over a hundred homeless people in tents, shacks constructed of scrap and the inevitable cardboard shelters. I first visited Tent City in 1999 during a week of homeless outreach and delivered bottled water to the residents there. In 2002, Home Depot, which owned the vacant land, hired private security guards, evicted almost one hundred homeless squatters and bulldozed the tents and shacks. Many of the former residents ended up back out on the streets of Toronto where project417 staff and volunteers still see them today.

Dan Bergeron is a rising young Toronto photographer and street artist who runs Fauxreel Studios. He’s perhaps best known for guerilla style billboard “interventions” – [another billboard here of Donald Trump] and poster art mounted throughout Toronto. Dan has been commissioned by the ROM as one of the new artists to contribute to the evolving Housepaint exhibition. As the display was moved indoors in the ROM there was a disconnect with the homeless it is to portray, and Dan hopes to bridge that gap through art that focuses on our homeless friends and raises awareness about their place in our community.

Inez - by Dan Bergeron / fauxreel

This might be through similar methods to two of his recent projects – the first was also for Luminato and was based in Regent Park last summer – where large portraits of people living in Regent Park were applied to the sides of buildings slated for demolition. Regent Park is Canada’s largest social housing project – most of it is being torn down and re-developed by the city into mixed use dwellings including market value homes and condos, not just social housing – resulting in a massive relocation of hundreds of low income families. According to Dan, in that way the community has a face. The second recent installations last summer and fall were for the AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario’s youth council  titled Shiftchange – it similarly was lifesized posters throughout Toronto, and then the hoarding walls around the AGO renovations itself.

Shiftchange poster - fauxreel.ca

Shiftchange poster - fauxreel.ca

Over the next months,  I’ll be working with Dan through our Project417 outreach programs, like the sandwich runs and community dinners, to connect him to our homeless and under-housed, street involved friends. Hopefully the result will be a series of portraits with the active involvement of the subjects to depict their real-life struggles with homelessness and inadequate housing solutions and a connection to their hopes and future aspirations of careers and life. Dan’s hope and mine is that there is ongoing follow-up with these homeless friends  to contribute to them in a real way. We look forward to the installation at the ROM when it is ready – based on Dan’s past works it is bound to raise community awareness about the homeless and make a real difference.

You can see more about Dan Bergeron’s work and the ROM Housepaint exhibition at fauxreel.ca.  Find out how to volunteer for Project417 or contribute to our homeless outreach programs at project417.com

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