July 27, 2017
Names are important. And as the assistant manager for Phoenix Society’s Rising Sun residences — where some 25 parolees live — Larry Hayes does not call these people “offenders.”
“We call them residents,” he says simply. “That’s just part of the way we approach people. We have a job to do in helping them through this. And it’s not our job to make their lives more difficult.”
A former executive director of the BC Borstal Association, Hayes has been with Phoenix for just over two years now. When he joined, the Rising Sun building had just been completed and he became the go-to person for any issues relating to the sub-trades. “When doors weren’t closing properly or the HVAC system wasn’t working, I became the guy who dealt with the contractors. It was interesting talking with all these technicians because I can barely hammer a nail in straight,” he says with a laugh.
But, in contrast, Larry’s background in corrections is utterly solid. He has a certificate in community services from Douglas College and a BA in criminology and psychology from SFU. Over his 20-year career, he has held jobs in sports administration, social work, youth detention and as a probation officer. And, for eight years, he was manager for correctional programs for the Salvation Army halfway house on the Downtown Eastside.
At Phoenix, one of his responsibilities is to help do the weekly screening of individuals who are eligible to live at Rising Sun. This means going out to federal institutions and interviewing inmates to see if they might benefit from what Phoenix has to offer. If the person has substance abuse problems, Larry’s challenge is to determine whether the person is willing to address them. As well, Rising Sun is an apartment/dorm situation, so he also needs to make sure they’re able to get along with other people.
“Part of our job is trying to be mother, father, teacher, disciplinarian, wrapped up into one,” Larry says. “They have certain obligations to pay back to society, and I’m here to ensure they follow their parole conditions and don’t fall back into the old negative patterns again.” Eight months is the average length of stay for these residents.
Larry strongly believes there are very few “evil” people in the world. The vast majority of people who have done prison time have simply stumbled onto the wrong path. “We’ve all made mistakes, some more serious than others,” he says. “Some, just for luck, haven’t been caught.
He has a lot of respect for the residents and likes to remind others that many of them are eager to have regular jobs and end up busing across the Lower Mainland for work that doesn’t pay very much money. “At Phoenix, we feel we can play a positive role in their lives.”