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Phoenix Residential Society supervisor Kendra Giles and Phoenix Society client Harley Kye.

Harley Kaye remembers sleeping in back alley garbage bins before before entering the Phoenix Residential Society’s housing-first program.

“I was living in the streets, sleeping in alleys and garbage cans, under bridges, anywhere that I could lay my head,” said Kaye.

“I was more worried about my drink than where I was going to sleep or where I was going to lay my head.”

Kaye had been homeless for several years, living on the streets in both Brandon, Man. and Regina, Sask.  

“It was a struggle, man. That's why I have so many scars on my body,” he said.

“One night I got beat up and the guy broke my ribs. I didn't care if I lived or died. I didn't care.”

While living on the streets, Kaye’s aunt died unexpectedly. He was close with her and didn’t get to say goodbye. Kaye knew he needed to make a change.

He reached out to the Phoenix Residential Society after learning about the non-profit organization while at Regina General Hospital.

The Phoenix Residential Society has been helping and housing people with mental illness and brain injuries since it began 40 years ago. Its newest program, HOMES, sets up low-income housing for people living on the streets.

This year marks the program’s fourth anniversary. In those four years, HOMES has has housed almost 40 homeless people.

HOMES is funded through the federal government’s Homeless Partnering Initiative.

“It follows the housing-first model, which means you get people housing first and then tackle the other issues,” said Sheila Wignes-Patron, manager of mental health and acquired brain injury services at the Phoenix Residential Society.

The housing-first model is relatively new to Regina, according to Wignes-Patron.

“It used to be that to qualify for some housing programs and supports, first you have to have your addictions under control, and you have to have your mental illness issues under control, then we'll put you in a house,” she said.

“The housing first model says everyone needs a home before they can start tackling those other issues.”

The HOMES program currently has 27 clients living in low-income housing, all of whom receive social assistance and are well-known by police and emergency services.

According to a report given to the Phoenix Society by Regina police, 19 of their clients accounted for over 2,000 arrests and calls for service before they entered the program. Since entering, those same 19 clients have accounted for less than 200 arrests and calls for service.

As of 2017, police and emergency services have saved over 1.7 million dollars since the program began.     

As one of the program’s clients, Kaye still has his struggles, but he works closely with the Phoenix Society to address those struggles.

“I still drink, I'm not going to lie. I still drink, but it's not as bad as it was when I first started the program,” said Kaye.

“They're not here to like, push us and tell us what not to do. They just help us the best they can.”

“They're giving me that encouragement. They give me an ear. They sit there and they listen,” he said.

Kendra Giles, HOMES program supervisor, says the program works for a variety of reasons.

“It provides dignity and people have the chance to be who they want to be completely judgement-free,” she said.

“We're here to help people with what they want to work on. If it's not something they want to work on, it's not something we're pushing on them.”

Giles says there are only two program requirements: clients must meet with their case worker on a regular basis, and clients must pay rent.

“The biggest goal is just to continue to work towards ending homelessness,” she said.

“I think given the resources we have right now, it’s not realistic, but there is a plan in place to develop a plan to end homelessness.”

“If you're homeless, you deserve a place to live,” said Giles.