Jody Foy was inspired to make a difference in Saskatchewan youth when she met a boy named Harley—he’s always had such a “love and passion for life,” she explained. She wants all teenagers to know they can conquer anything, even when life gets tough.
Foy is a special education assistant at the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division in Prince Albert. She started working with Harley, who’s graduating this year, shortly after she started her career a decade ago.
For the past year, Foy has been collaborating with David Girardi to build a semi-independent transitional housing complex in Prince Albert.
Naturally, they decided to name it Harley’s House.
The pair hopes they can raise the $1.5 million needed to complete the project by September, and even build two more transitional homes in other cities within three years.
Foy said a lot of youth go down the wrong path when they reach adulthood. They grow up with supports in a group home or in foster care, and suddenly they’re left to find their way alone.
“I’ve lost a lot of our students to the streets. They no longer come to school, they kind of get wrapped up in that world,” she said.
“They’re basically left to strive on their own and they’re missing that (support), so they look for other ways to get that, which would be falling into gangs because they think that’s their support, they have people that have their backs.”
That’s why Foy and Girardi decided to form the Girardi Foundation and make Harley’s House into more than just a building, but a brand. They hope to shed light on the lack of transitional housing accommodations while bridging the gap themselves.
“We’re not long-term living, we’re not a group home,” said Girardi. “We’re just a support channel.”
Harley’s House will provide temporary support and mentorship for people between the ages of 18 and 21.
The house will be 3,212 square feet. It will include six bachelor suites, each furnished with a twin-sized bed, a kitchen with a microwave and fridge, a washroom with a bathtub and shower and a stackable washer and dryer.
The main level will contain a larger, wheelchair accessible suite.
The building will also include a common area with a full-sized kitchen, dining room, staff room, washroom and visiting space.
Harley’s House will get most of its energy through a 6kW PV solar panel system, reducing the overall living cost to its residents.
Residents will have access to a variety of supports, including cultural and spiritual support, personal development, life skills such as cooking, cleaning and budgeting, drug and alcohol awareness and abuse and mental health awareness.
Girardi said there will be a vetted list of who’s allowed to live at Harley’s House for safety reasons. They’ll be looking at criminal involvement and people who are currently with gangs, for example. Residents also won’t be allowed overnight guests.
“We’re going to be their friends and say ‘That might not have been the best decision, maybe try it this way,’” he explained.
It’s been a long year of planning, said Girardi, but it’s also been extremely rewarding.
“It’s kind of refreshing to see what it’s actually going to look like,” he said about the layout and design of the home, which was completed with the help of Robinson Residential.
“Now it’s just a matter of getting the community behind us saying ‘Yeah let’s build this thing.’”
Harley’s House has already received support from as far as Edmonton.
The public can contribute to the project through its GoFundMe called ‘Harley’s House – Supportive Living Complex.’
Through a partnership with Cree Rhythm Clothing, you can also purchase a Harley’s House T-shirt for $45, with all proceeds going towards the home.
Girardi said donations of any amount are appreciated. For sponsorships over $300, you’re invited to sponsor a tangible item such as a suite—which will be named after the donor or company—the garden, living room, kitchen or lounge.
Donors will also be featured on the Girardi Foundation and Harley’s House website, social media platforms and community events.
“Harley was that one that (made us) look at everything differently and be like ‘Okay, we need to really focus in, hound in on what’s causing these issues,” said Foy.
“It’s heartbreaking to see them go down the paths that they choose. Some do, some don’t, but I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with the foundation in order to build this home to get this program up and running.”