Residence helps offenders improve lives

  • Leon, Calgary John Howard Society
Sidelined by addiction and crime, Leon is gaining the tools he needs to contribute to society and find peace with himself.

Alcohol has had a grip on Leon all his life. Despite kicking a drug habit 10 years ago, he had never been able to do the same with alcohol. Quitting one substance only intensified his addiction to the other.

“I was a selfish and jealous person,” he admits. “I didn’t have much hope then.”

Fueled by his dependence on alcohol, Leon turned to crime and thus began his course through the justice system. He eventually ended up at Calgary John Howard Society’s specialized, community-based residence for male offenders who need further support. Years of malignant insecurities made him wary of what awaited him in the program, but he pushed them aside, prepared to begin making some changes.

Leon found that after the door to his new home opened, other doors soon followed. An elder and spiritual advisor helped Leon connect to his own personal spirituality, which he now holds closely — something that has deeply influenced his search for peace.

Not only did Leon find peace, but empathy and compassion as well. “I didn’t really know what compassion was before coming here,” he says. “I looked it up in the dictionary to find out what it was and decided it was something I wanted.”

Opening up was difficult at first, but Leon learned how to trust again through relationships with staff. “As I got to know them, it just came naturally,” he explains. “I could see they really did care about me and were trying to help me.”

This residence is vital for people like Leon, who have the ability to contribute to society but need the tools to do so. It not only benefits the clients but the community as well. “Coming here restored my sense of trust and hope,” he says. “Now I hold myself accountable for my actions. I’m able to progress and become a responsible citizen of Calgary.”