Operation Come Home has been working to help homeless and street-involved youth in the Ottawa area. Operation Come Home has created a unique approach that allows the youth accessing their programs to engage in a wide range of meaningful education and employment opportunities. They have several programs that are designed to assist their clients on an individual and personal level. Operation Come Home helps hundreds of at-risk and homeless youth access the services and support their need in order to make positive changes in their lives. Their mission is to prevent homeless youth from becoming homeless adults.
Development of Enterprise
Operation Come Home currently runs four unique social enterprises designed specifically to promote youth employment: Beadworks, BottleWorks, Buy Your Beau’s Online, and re: Purpose. BottleWorks, for example, is a commercial bottle pick-up service currently holding contracts with 75 local restaurants, bars, hotels, and conference facilities in Ottawa. The enterprise employs and trains youth for periods of 12 weeks at a time, giving them valuable work experience along with access to social supports.
More recently, Operation Come Home transformed the front of its 150 Gloucester Street location in downtown Ottawa to become the re: Purpose storefront. re: Purpose is a boutique which products have an emphasis on recycled materials and young artisan creations. The boutique sells products from social enterprises, artisans and youth products that are made by at risk and homeless youth at Operation Come Home. The boutique stocks products that are unique, high quality and many are re: purposed. Products that are sold in the boutique provide jobs for at risk and homeless youth and give local enterprises and artisans an opportunity to sell their products. A portion of the product sales are re-directed back into re: Purpose to sustain the enterprise.
Recently re: Purpose has created an online store front, allowing even those outside of Ottawa to purchase socially conscious wares. Their current offerings include: necklaces & pendants earrings; bracelets; rings & brooches; hats & accessories; purses & yoga mats; vases & decor; candles; handmade toys; and artwork.
“Operation Come Home helps youth that fall under the terrible term of ‘throwaway kids,’ ” Elspeth McKay, Organization’s Executive Director.
Products & Services
Operation Come Home uses a variety of unique and innovative programming that is designed to assist their clients on an individual and personal level. From first-point of contact until achievement and beyond, Operation Come Home guides and supports youth based on their dreams, goals, and desires for a better life.
Operation Come Home offers different kind of programs: Rogers Achievement Centre, Job Action Centre, Jobs Matter, Housing Works, re: Purpose, BottleWorks, FarmWorks – CSA, FoodWorks, Buy Your Beau’s Online (B.Y.B.O), Reunite, Outreach, Ressources (Drop-In). These programs are divided in two sections, ‘’Works’’ and ‘’Matters’’.
“Works” programs impact lifestyle and provide things such as challenge, achievement, independence and reward. These programs typically provide paid opportunities to the youth and allow them to further their knowledge or experience in an area of employment or education. All “Works” programs include social support, which provides all of the resources needed in order for their clients to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
- Rogers Achievement Centre
- Job Action Centre
- Jobs Matter
- Finance Matters
- Housing Works
- re:PURPOSE (formerly known as BeadWorks)
“Matters” programs are the first point of contact for their clients. These programs are focused on elements that affect quality of life, such as socialization, dignity, friendship, and safety. They are unique and innovative, and matter to the youth at Operation Come Home. Each result is different, and the outcomes vary on an individual basis.
- Resources (Drop-In)
- Health Matters
75% of youth that walk through the Operation Come Home doors are successful in finding a job or finishing school.
Impacts & Outcomes
Last year alone, the Job Action Centre helped over 36 youth find jobs with a wide variety of employers, including two of Operation Come Home’s social enterprises: BottleWorks and Beadworks. Alternatively, “Matters” programs, such as Reunite, the Drop – In, Outreach, and Health Matters, focus on increasing quality of life and are often a first point of contact for youth. Every year the Drop – in and Resource Centre provides services that assist over 150 local youth in accessing basic needs, while the Reunite Program was able to help 70 young people between the ages of 16 – 19 return to their families in 2011.
Challenges & Lessons Learned
Many of products being sold have been created by youth in the BeadWorks program, which allows youth to create their own unique lines of jewelry or one of Operation Come Home’s signature lines. re: Purpose has hosted a shopping party, which gave customers the opportunity to meet the talented youth and local artisans who sell their pieces in the store. One of the main benefits of using social enterprise as a means of training and employing is the feeling of empowerment it provides to its employees. All of Operation Come Home’s social enterprises involve youth in a wide variety of business practices, including administration, inventory, sales, branding, product development, marketing and accounting encouraging them to learn new skills and regain ownership over their own lives in the process.
The success of Operation Come Home’s entrepreneurial activities is widely acknowledged. The organization recently won the 2012 Youth Social Entrepreneur Award for outstanding commitment through socially responsible activities. The success and continued expansion of Operation Come Home’s social enterprises can also be attributed to the organization’s commitment to staying ahead of the curve by looking for underdeveloped sectors and identifying niche markets. The executive director noted, “BottleWorks is the only one of its kind and same with Buy Your Beau’s Online. re: Purpose is the only space in Ottawa that provides retail space for social enterprises.”
Operation Come Home observes consumer demand in the Ottawa area and responds by linking enterprises and customers to one another. Considerable work has also gone into developing private and corporate partnerships, which are integral to the growth and development of the social enterprises.
Funding for Operation Come Home comes from donations, fundraising and grants.
“[Operation Come Home] is doing good things … things that are helping those who are most vulnerable.’’ The Sun (2013)
Community Background & History
In 1971, the City of Ottawa became the birthplace of Operation Come Home (formerly Operation Go Home). At that time, Reverend Norman Johnston recognized a unique need to assist runaway youth across Canada to return home to their family. An ordained United Church Minister, Rev. Johnston believed in his community and the youth within it.
He held a special place in his heart for Ottawa’s street youth population. He began communicating with local runaways through the support of the local police service, the RCMP, the court system and social service providers. This network of agencies formulated the beginning of Operation Come Home. His mission was to connect with young runaways and help them return home. This mission formed into a national mandate and was adopted in 1985 by a Board of Directors and Reverend Sterling Irvine was hired as the first Executive Director. With Rev. Irvine’s direction, Operation Come Home found office space with the YMCA of Ottawa-Carleton. He continued to follow Rev. Johnston’s mission to assist with young runaways while acting as a liaison between youth and their parents / legal guardians. In December of 1986, Viking Rideau Corporation graciously donated office space to Operation Come Home in the Rideau Centre parking garage. This was instrumental to bringing the program closer to the downtown market area where the street youth population often congregates.
In 1990, Operation Come Home elected a committee to form a National Organization. In September 1990, due to their hard work, National Operation Come Home was launched.Throughout the next few years Operation Come Home began to open new offices across the country, with the first office opening in Toronto in 1992. Offices then opened in Vancouver in 1993, Winnipeg in 1994 and Halifax in 1995. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, the Vancouver, Halifax and Toronto offices closed.
Operation Come Home is now an innovative organization that offers a multitude of comprehensive programs and educational opportunities to clients. Located in downtown Ottawa, Operation Come Home helps hundreds of at-risk and homeless youth access the services and support they need in order to make positive changes in their lives.
Operation Go Home changed its name to Operation Come Home on June 18, 2009 in an effort to better articulate our mission and mandate to the community.