If you’ve snapped a selfie in front of the “Ottawa” sign this summer, you’ve seen Pierre Ferron’s handiwork.
Ferron has been keeping Inspiration Village — the row of repurposed shipping containers plunked down in the ByWard Market — looking pristine, picking up trash, watering the plants, and scrubbing down those hard-to-miss capital letters.
He’s part of a small team of former Ottawa Mission residents hired to perform janitorial work at the York Street village, which is in the midst of its final weekend.
“This is just amazing, you know what I mean?” Ferron said Saturday afternoon, surveying the crowds of people taking photos and checking out the pavilions.
“[This is] what makes me want to live. Because I can give back.”
Ferron readily admits that, for much of his life, he was a taker — not a giver.
He began drinking when he was 10, bouncing from New Brunswick to southern Ontario before arriving at the Ottawa Mission roughly 14 months ago.
‘[I was] a bad dude. And now, I try to be a good dude.’
– Pierre Ferron
Sober now for nearly two years, and living on his own with the Mission’s assistance, Ferron said the summer job has helped him leave his previous life as a “tough guy” behind.
He said he’s even reconnected with his son, who for years wanted little to do with him.
“All my life I drank, [got into] trouble,” Ferron said. “You know, like a bad dude. And now, I try to be a good dude.”
‘They have been extraordinary’
Guy Laflamme, the executive director and producer of Ottawa 2017, said the York Street installation is based on a similar previous initiative in South Africa that had a “strong social dimension.”
That’s why they approached the Ottawa Mission to see if they could recommend former residents to help get the 41 shipping containers ready each day for the public.
The residents aren’t volunteers, Laflamme said: they’ve all been compensated for their work, and the hope is they’ve gained valuable job skills they can put towards future endeavours.
“They have been extraordinary — the…