Kathy Cillis: Teacher at The Ottawa Mission

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By Janet Allingham RN

The only teacher in the small classes at the Stepping Stone Learning Centre of The Ottawa Mission admits to being a "born teacher." Kathy Cillis says, "No matter what else I do, I always seem to come back to teaching." These days, she's helping students reach learning goals that can change their lives.

In this setting, secure housing can make the difference between success and failure.

Education takes many forms, so Kathy brings the community to the Mission. There have been workshops, concerts, tie-dying sessions with Centre 454, and mixed media art projects.

Kathy would like Canadians to know that every person has a different pathway to learning. There are also different barriers to success: mental health issues, learning disabilities/exceptionalities, job loss, family breakup, or a lack of support. The most important lesson she has learned is that there are many reasons why people don't finish school the first time around. Working with a team that includes housing caseworkers makes many problems surmountable.

The case managers on Kathy's team strive to support individuals in finding appropriate and stable housing. They connect their clients to specific and important resources and services within the Ottawa Mission and in the Ottawa community.

"Home" for Kathy is a place where one can be safe and be themselves. It's where she can do what she loves: cooking and listening to music. More important, it's a place to feel supported. Speaking as a teacher, she believes that while housing is a key ingredient to successful learning, support is essential even after moving into a place of your own. While there may be enough housing for everyone in Ottawa, cost and a lack of safety, she says, often get in the way.