Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mentors Help Homeless Seniors in Phoenix

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mentors Help Homeless Seniors in Phoenix

Article excerpt

PHOENIX Ozanam Manor, a transitional senior housing facility in Phoenix run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, offers much more to its guests than a bed and three meals a day It provides caseworkers and mentors to help homeless men and women get back on their feet again.

Jeanne O'Brien, a mentor at the shelter for nearly a decade and a member of the home's advisory board, meets with some of the Ozanam residents for about an hour each week to help with life skills, while case managers often help with untangling government bureaucracy and making sure these seniors become qualified for future work.

O'Brien has helped with basic literacy skills or showing residents how to keep a calendar and stay organized. She's also just there to talk with people. "Maybe it's the mother in me, and wanting people to succeed and not feel down," O'Brien said of her volunteer work at the shelter. "A lot of people here just feel useless and I don't believe in that."

The homeless men and women at Ozanam Manor often are not used to their state. Many held down jobs and raised families for years. It could be a string of bad luck, poor decisions or unchecked mental illness that forced them out onto the streets.

"They've exhausted their friends and families," O'Brien said. "Some of the situations are of their own making. A lot had nothing to do with them. You know, we do make poor choices. You need to give people a break and let them recoup their dignity."

That's what Ozanam Manor offers them, she said. …

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