Carpenter/hairstylist Albert finds home with the help of two RESOLVE Partners

You won’t meet many people who can give you a salon-grade haircut and then build you a house.

Albert, both a carpenter and a hairstylist, is one of those rare breeds.

“I’ve always been good with my hands,” he says. “It’s relaxing.”

Albert moved to Calgary when he was 21 to work as a carpenter. Like many young adults, he faced the allure of alcohol and the pressure of paying his rent and bills. So he lived on the streets.

“That rolled into a heavy addiction,” he remembers.

Sleeping rough

Albert was homeless on and off for 19 years, often camping outside and under bridges – even in the harsh Calgary winter.

At 44, Albert was hit by a car. It crushed three of his vertebrae and he couldn’t walk without a cane. Tom, a caseworker at Accessible Housing, connected with Albert through the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre (SORCe). They began meeting regularly.

Albert never let his addiction or mobility get in the way of his appointments with Tom – he made sure to be at each one. “It was pretty incredible considering his condition,” Tom recalls. “He didn’t even have a bus pass.”

Tom started talking to Albert about going to treatment. Albert agreed.

“It was time to get my life together,” he says.

The detox salon

Tom went to meet him at the Calgary Alpha House Society detox facility. “There he was on the deck, cutting someone’s hair. Pretty much anyone that was in detox got their hair cut by Albert.”

Albert just wanted to make his fellow patients smile. “It made them feel good,” he says.

The staff at Alpha House set up Albert’s treatment while Tom looked for housing. “Alpha House is really the expert when it comes to finding the best fit for a treatment program,” Tom says. “And then I found an apartment for him that wouldn’t interfere with his mobility issues and that he could move into right after treatment.

“If you have to go back to the streets after treatment, the chance of relapsing and undoing all of your hard work is pretty high.”

Home at last

Albert successfully completed treatment and has been living in his new apartment for one month.

He proudly opens his spice cupboard. His favourite thing to cook? “Food,” he laughs. “I’ll cook anything.”

Now that he has a home, Albert’s walking has improved a lot. Tom has helped him find a family doctor and set up a bank account. Albert gives his friends haircuts on the balcony and is looking into more hairdressing courses.

“Now I have a safe, private place where I can take care of myself and move on with my life.”

Accessible Housing and Alpha House will provide more homes for people like Albert through the RESOLVE Campaign.

Now I have a safe, private place where I can take care of myself and move on with my life.