A new program in Regina is helping people leave gang life behind.

Cody Francis said he joined a gang at the age of 12 to protect himself from others.

“You weren’t able to walk around this neighbourhood without having a group with you,” he told CTV News. “You weren’t allowed to walk by yourself.”

At 18, his son was born. The responsibility of having a son helped him decide to leave the gang in 2011. Now 29, he said the decision transition wasn’t easy.

“It’s really hard not to go back to that,” Francis said. “Being Aboriginal, I am finding to not only get employment, but maintain it and advance, I found myself more often than not, coming back to situations because I needed to pay my bills.”

Now Francis is finding support in the Regina Gang Exit Network (ReGEN). Spurgeon Root launched the program two weeks ago. Root has been involved with gang exit for more than 10 years. He works with three former gang members who now act as mentors for the program.

“What do we need to do to help (people) be successful?” he said. “What are the issues (people) are facing in life and how can we help with that?”

ReGEN is based on a holistic mentorship model, addressing mental, physical and spiritual aspects of people’s lives. The idea came from “Homeboy Industries” in Los Angeles, the largest gang exit program in the world.

“The people here are great, the conversation is good,” Francis said. “There are no boundaries to what we can talk about, there’s no judgement.”

Root said he wants to see the program grow in order to help people have support when they need it most.

Based on a report by CTV Regina's Creeson Agecoutay