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Homeless Man's Life Changed Forever After Moving In With Strangers

Rosa Marchitelli/CBC

A homeless man’s life was changed when he moved in with a couple in the suburbs.

Kevin Swayzie was born with a urea cycle disorder, which is linked to brain damage and learning disabilities – making it difficult to navigate life on his own.

The 32-year-old had a difficult home life. His mother was mentally ill, and he never knew his father. His stepfather was an alcoholic, and physically abusive. They have since passed away.  

According to CBC, Swayzie moved out when he was 20-years-old, but his life only got worse.

Swayzie would spend his monthly government cheque at a dive bar in Calgary, Canada, and on drugs like pot, cocaine, acid, meth and ecstasy, until his money ran out.

He was also known to the police, as there were warrants out for his arrest for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and theft.

"It was terrible," Swayzie said. "I found [living on the streets] was too hard for me."

All of Swayzie’s attempts to get clean failed, until he finally sought help from Alberta Health Services. He was put in a program that finds families who are willing to open up their homes to people who suffer from developmental disabilities.

Nurse Cindy Germain and her pastor husband Pierre had recently moved into a quiet suburb with their adult son and pet cockatoo named Barbie. Their new home had a lot of space, so they decided to join the same program as Swayzie, and welcomed him into their home in July 2015.

"Kevin came to us with nothing, he came to us with a little box," Cindy said.

The couple were originally unaware of Swayzie’s problems with the law, and his drug and alcohol abuse, but Cindy said they saw his situation as a challenge, not a problem.

When Swayzie first moved in, he would disappear for days, only to return high and drunk. He eventually went to rehab.

Following Swayzie's treatment, the Germains helped him get his life on track by helping him deal with his arrest warrants, putting him in counselling, and teaching him how to manage his money.  

"I'm grateful to have amazing people," Swayzie said. "When I was growing up I didn't have amazing people."

Swayzie has since gotten job at a movie theater as a ticket collector, which he credits to Cindy and Pierre.

"They help me and they make me feel great about myself," he said. "They show me I'm a person and show me great values in life."

Two and a half years later, Swayzie still lives with the Germains, and while most people in the program move out of the homes they’re placed in, Cindy hopes Swayzie never leaves.

"I almost had an overdose on drugs and alcohol and that's why two years sober shows me I can do great things in life and shows me I can achieve something and be myself," Swayzie said.

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Maya has been working at Shared for a year. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com