'I made it through': Ottawa man earns two diplomas while living at homeless shelter

About 3,000 people were expected to be served at the Ottawa Mission's annual Christmas dinner Sunday — including Marc Chartier.

Marc Chartier one of thousands served dinner Sunday at the Ottawa Mission

Marc Chartier arrived at the Ottawa Mission in April with a bag of clothes and $40, and on Friday he received his diploma as a certified asbestos abatement worker. (CBC Ottawa)

It was just after 9 a.m. one morning in April 2015 when Marc Chartier showed up at the Ottawa Mission with a bag of clothes and $40.

"I was totally beat up by life," said Chartier, one of the nearly 3,000 people expected to stop by Sunday afternoon for the shelter's annual Christmas dinner. "I didn't want to mix with nobody."

If his plans work out, though, Sunday's Christmas dinner at the mission will be his last.

A construction worker for 17 years, Chartier said Sunday that the fallout from "some bad issues" — including a divorce and the death of his mother — culminated in his arrival at the Waller Street shelter in April.

During his time at the shelter, however, he worked during the day and studied at local community colleges in the evening.

He eventually got his high school diploma and on Friday, he received his college diplomas, which permit him to work with asbestos and other hazardous materials.

The next step, he says, is turning that education into a new career. 

"I did it with the support of the mission. It was hard — not a small job, but a big job — but I made it through."

In all, a team of 120 volunteers prepared more than 2,000 pounds of turkey, 600 pounds of mashed potatoes, 400 pounds of green beans and 50 gallons of gravy for the annual dinner.

Peter Tilley, the mission's executive director, said about 3,000 people were expected to come through the doors for a hot meal Sunday.

It's a number that's higher than last year, and likely due to the nice weather and the minimal amounts of snow on the ground, he said.

"When the weather's nice, [people] can get out and walk and get here. They're not driving cars," said Tilley. "We're going to see a good crowd. We're already seeing a good crowd."

The Ottawa Mission's dinner continues until 5 p.m. ET Sunday.