No more life on the streets: Pilot project providing a permanent home for the homeless
Citing the success of similar programs in Medicine Hat and Utah, advocates have said for several years the best way to get people off the streets is to give them a permanent home, a chance to regain their footing, in order to get the stability needed to get back on their feet.
Now a four-year pilot project in Montreal is doing just that, giving people who have been living on the streets for decades a permanent shelter.
Roger Flowers has been homeless for 30 years as he struggled to feed a cocaine habit.
He lost his family, lost everything, while he did whatever was necessary to earn enough cash for a quick hit.
His life was simple, if brutal: "sleep in the park, wake up and start over again picking up cans for two to three hours, me and my friends, just enough to get what we need, you know. Cocaine," said Flowers.
In October 2015 he was given a home by the Montreal Housing Project, one of more than 100 people living in housing subsidized by the federal government, homeless shelters, and landlords.
The change in his life is remarkable.
"This is my castle. It's a home. I appreciate coming in, to turn the key," said Flowers.
"I see a different side of life, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel."
Since he's moved in Flowers saved up enough money to buy a bicycle - and when he found his asthma making it difficult to ride uphill, saved for months to buy an electric scooter.
Eduardo Della Foresta said this kind of change is typical of someone who is given a permanent home.
"When they finally find somewhere, they can see themselves within that community, there's just a spark that occurs. It's palpable, it really is," said Della Foresta.
The social worker for the Welcome Hall Mission is meeting Flowers once a week -- more often if needed -- to integrate him into society at large.
"They can call us and ask advice. We direct them to community services in the area," said Della Foresta.
Having stability has also given Flowers something he did not imagine possible: a chance to reunite with his family, including his two-year-old grandson.
"He's amazing! I go see him every day," said Flowers.
At age 62, having spent half his life on the streets, Flowers knows he will have to continue fighting to avoid a relapse.
Still, Flowers is grateful for a second chance, and the support to make sure he doesn't.
"I'm just proud of me, proud of me."