You’re sitting on the corner of a street in -35 C weather, shivering, lonely and with nowhere to go. You’re praying that someone passing by will drop a few coins in your cup.
You’re praying that you’ll have somewhere safe to sleep that night, painfully aware of the uncertainty of where you’ll end up tomorrow.
This was the reality for Shlomo Coodin, 23, an Algonquin business marketing student, and former homeless youth. Coodin was living on the streets for about a year when he was 19 years old, and has since been able to take the necessary steps to a better life with the help of Operation Come Home.
Operation Come Home is an Ottawa-based charitable organization and support centre for homeless and at-risk youth above the age of 16. The organization helps homeless youth in finding shelter, furthering their education and finding employment.
Operation Come Home offered immense support for Coodin while he worked towards improving himself. With the help of the organization, Coodin was able to move into his own apartment, complete his last four high school credits and get a part time job working at Tim Hortons.
“Operation Come Home really cared about me,” Coodin said.
Coodin wanted to find a way to give back to this organization. With the simple act of a tweet, Coodin started up the ‘Pie the Mayor Campaign’. His goal was to raise $10,000 in donations towards Operation Come Home and Mayor Jim Watson agreed to be pied in the face if his goal was reached.
Coodin worked alongside Lynda Franc, director of programs and services for Operation Come Home, to set up a website and GoFundMe page for the campaign.
Operation Come Home does not receive any renewable funding from the city. They are forced to reapply for a grant every year. If they don’t receive their grant, they do not have the money to keep the organization running.
“I wanna help Operation Come Home because they did so much for me,” said Coodin, “And there’s another Shlomo out there. I wanna make sure they can continue to help the youth that need it.”
On Thursday, Jan. 25, Coodin was given the opportunity to join Operation Come Home in their annual event ‘The Original 24 Hours of Homelessness’. Each year members of Operation Come Home, as well as other volunteers, sleep outside on the street for 24-hours.
Coodin was unable to complete the 24-hours outdoors due to an infection. This shines a light on what many homeless people in Ottawa suffer through every day.
Mayor Watson supports the initiative, even though it means a pie in the face.
“One person who’s homeless is one too many,” said Mayor Jim Watson.
As the event came to an end, Coodin announced that he had successfully reached his goal of $10,000. The franchise owners of the Tim Hortons that Coodin is currently employed at came together with all of the Tim Hortons franchise owners in Ottawa. Together they were able to double the $10,000 towards Operation Come Home making a total donation of $20,000.
“They do a lot of great work,” said Watson, “so the least I could do is take a pie in the face for $20,000.”
Coodin hopes that this campaign has helped raise awareness for at-risk and homeless youth. His advice to those looking to make a difference is to simply be kind, say hello even if you don’t have any spare change to offer.
“It can mean so much to have people care about you,” said Coodin, “to just show that empathy and kindness.”
You’re sitting on the street in -35 C weather. Rather than the usual scowl, someone reaches out their hand. You’re warm because they’ve brought you inside, offered you something to eat. That hollow cup of coins has now become a cup of coffee. You are no longer alone, you have people around you who support you.
This is Operation Come Home. You are now home.