Test Drive - Page 6

Street Outreach to Stabilization Trent Harper, known best by his peers as Irish, has been homeless for over four years. Eight months ago, Street Outreach and Stabilization (SOS) Coordinator Michele Harshenin met him in front of the Uptown Bottle Depot – a primary outreach area for connecting with people who live on the street and may not access programs or services. Irish, 47, was one of those individuals. He had been bottle picking for the last year-and-a-half, and chose to rough sleep (sleep outside) almost year-round. Irish grew up as the eldest of three siblings, had a love for music and played bass guitar and drums in a band. As a young child, he recalls his concave chest bringing on much ridicule and teasing from other kids. Although a tad rough on the outside and a bit of a fighter when he needs to be, those who know him know his heart is soft. And it shows as he reflects 6 on his relationship with his late grandmother. “I miss her,” he says, as tears well in his eyes. Before becoming homeless, Irish was a commercial painter. He admits openly that an alcohol addiction and former drug-related habits, along with a diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) left him unable to hold a job, and eventually, he lost everything. It wasn’t until he met Michele, that he decided to open himself up to support. “She asked me if it’d be OK to have a Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region conversation, and I said, ‘OK, I can do that,’” Irish explains. “The first time she talked to me, she was really good with me, and it helped me get some release – stress release and emotional release, so I was grateful for that…It just progressed from there.” Irish began meeting Michele on a regular basis, and they built what they can both attest to as a mutually beneficial friendship. Larry Fedun, Manager of the SOS program, says it’s building a truly trusting relationship with individuals that is the most important step in working