Blue Roses is an inspiring documentary that challenges how end of life (palliative) care is defined and provided to Ottawa’s inner-city rooming house community, whose members often face issues of poverty, addiction and mental illness. Bob Jamison, a person with lived experience, and other frontline health workers take an innovative approach by going out into the community to provide palliative care, which is more typically provided in hospitals and hospices, and sometimes in homeless shelters.
Rooming houses play an important and often overlooked role in providing affordable housing in Ottawa, but conditions are not always ideal to provide palliative care. Houses seldom have phones, doorbells and are sometimes without running water. Residents also regularly deal with bed bugs, cockroaches, mice, rats, safety and health issues, but fear eviction if they complain. Amidst the escalating opioid crisis, death and dying is an unfortunate and daily reality for Bob and his neighbours in Ottawa’s Somerset West and Centretown neighbourhoods, which have the highest concentration of rooming houses in Ottawa.
“In my neighbourhood, I kind of wanted to redefine the definition of palliative care, because watching people suffer, along with no support, living in poverty, living in places that weren’t conducive to healing, what I saw were people dying for things like little infections. A broken leg could cause someone to die in this neighbourhood,” comments Bob in the film.
For Bob, offering support and dignity for people dying in his neighbourhood is critical to his own recovery journey, as he chooses to face, rather than to ignore the daily suffering that he is witness to. As a community leader, harm reduction worker, activist, listener, and peacekeeper, we witness Bob bringing food to rooming house tenants battling cancer, move tenants away from drug houses, and arrange memorials for those that have passed away in his community.
“For me the only way that I was going to be successful at my own recovery was to do something, was to get involved. Not just ignore everything that was going on in the neighbourhood,” says Bob just after dropping off provisions to a rooming house resident.
A free screening of Blue Roses is being held at the Mayfair Theatre on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 6:30 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm), followed by a discussion with frontline workers and local city councillors. Register via Eventbrite. Donations are welcome and will support frontline workers who provide care to this vulnerable community.
“Blue Roses” received the 2018 One World Film Festival Audience Favourite Award and was directed by Old Ottawa South filmmakers Ed Kucerak and Danielle Rolfe.
Originally published in the June 2019 OSCAR.