Robert Bryan now 54, lives comfortably in his own apartment in the west end of Ottawa with his cat Moe. He’s focusing on his future and making changes in his life, thanks to the support from the staff at The Salvation Army Ottawa Booth Centre.
When Robert was first released from prison, he had nowhere to go and found himself living on the streets for two years.
“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Robert. Life was pretty hard until he started working with case worker Kristen Piazza with The Housing Response Team at the Ottawa Booth Centre.
Robert who faces a number of challenges is working hard with the help of the Housing Response Team to maintain a stable life style. He attends counselling sessions and participates in an addiction program in the community. “I am happy now, my goal is to move forward and not die in a cell,” he said.
Today Robert is also learning a number of life skills through The Salvation Army including laundry and managing his money. The Ottawa Booth Centre Life Skills classes promote self-awareness, self-esteem and confidence through guided discussions of topics such as self-discipline, integrity, empathy and independence.
Kristen says that support from The Housing Response Team is offered to all of their clients for at least a year depending on their individual needs. Case managers meet regularly with clients in their new homes to assist with the often difficult transition away from life on the street by connecting them to resources in the community.
“We make sure their new home is tidy, their activities are meaningful and that they have access to services in the community like mental health and addictions programs. We help fill prescriptions, assist with groceries when needed, offer clothing vouchers and bus passes or even just meet for coffee to check in and see how things are going,” said Kristen.
After moving into his apartment, Robert wanted to adopt a cat and saved up all his money with some assistance from the Sandy Hill Community Association.
“I drove him down to the Humane Society where he picked out a cat,” said Kristen, “Robert made him a collar and got everything he needed to care for him.”
“I wanted to help a special needs cat because I feel they are overlooked in society,” he said. “Moe had broken bones in his face and had been abused,” said Robert.
Robert says he has known about the work of The Salvation Army for a long time. He had encountered members while in prison and he says his father was involved in the organization too.
“I can’t say enough about The Salvation Army and about the good they do, I really mean that,” he said, “The Salvation Army helps me be accountable and has given me a social group too.”
Robert is proud of his Metis heritage and explains that for him his strength to keep moving forward is very spiritual.
Robert now also takes part in recreational activities like bike riding and fishing. He has also found a passion for woodworking, making decorative boxes out of recycled wood.
“Heart to God and hand to man. That’s what The Salvation Army is all about,” said Robert, “It’s just the best organization I have ever been involved with.”