During the lockdowns of the past two years, I had done what I could to research One City Peterborough (OCP), mainly through its website. Here is the introduction:
“One City Peterborough is a non-profit charitable organization. We operate on the belief that everyone belongs, and it is together that we flourish. To that end, we focus on supporting those who have experienced homelessness and/or criminalization towards their full inclusion into the community.
“Some of our programs look to create stability and increase wellness for those experiencing criminalization and homelessness, such as housing, employment and support programs; some of our work focuses on advocating for systemic change such as challenging laws that criminalize individuals; and some of our work addresses immediate needs, such as survival gear for folks sleeping outside.”
This would not prepare me for the eye-opening visit that the Rev. Christian Harvey, co-executive director, would lead me on. We began with a tour of the main house where the offices are located. Along with the administrative offices were two special rooms. There is the art therapy room. By helping the participants to develop their creative side, the art therapist helps them peer into their inner selves, explore their feelings and come to greater self-awareness and healing. There is also the simple joy of learning to draw and paint.
There is also the music room. It is a popular place to enjoy a tune, meet with friends and release the tension of the day in a healthy way. A wide variety of instruments are available for participants to enjoy. I’m sure there is never a dull moment here.
Christian also took me to visit one of their homes that is currently being renovated to better serve senior ex-prisoners who are struggling with mobility issues and other effects of aging, while struggling to find food, shelter and a job.
What was most moving for me was a room being created for prisoners in palliative care, that is, those who are in prison and near death. In prison, as you near death, you are assigned to a cell in isolation, often without windows. Worse than dying so alone, the myth in prison is that if you die in prison, you automatically go to hell. How terrifying this situation must be as the end draws near.
So, One City Peterborough is negotiating with Corrections Canada to allow palliative care prisoners to be transferred to its seniors’ home and die with others around them in a room with big, beautiful windows overlooking a garden.
I have been taught that a person is considered palliative if they are within six months of dying. Corrections Canada would like to release a prisoner to One City Peterborough’s care for only the last week of their life. OCP is negotiating for two weeks.
This is just a glimpse of my visit to One City Peterborough and what FaithWorks is about. Allowing someone to pass their last week or two in this life with some humanity, compassion and hope for eternal life is what your donation to FaithWorks supports. It is an expression of God’s love and mercy.
This article originally appeared in Faithlines. One City Peterborough is a FaithWorks ministry partner.