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Former shelter resident Pamela Holland is living the RV life with her new love

On the small patio outside the travel trailer where Pamela Holland, 62, lives with her partner Jim, they’ve set up a little coffee station and a pair of glider chairs for relaxing.

Birds sing in the trees, a FedEx truck makes a delivery to a neighbor, children play in the grass and a rhythm of airplanes pass overhead. Occasionally, a coyote cuts through the RV park tucked away at the foot of Adobe Mountain in Deer Valley, Arizona.

“I love it,” Pamela says. “It’s well kept. People are very friendly, very nice, talkative and social.”

Man and woman standing outside of an RV

Life wasn’t always this laidback. Pamela used to live on the street before she rebuilt her life and graduated from St. Vincent de Paul’s transitional shelter, Ozanam Manor.

Originally from Iowa, Pamela left the state in 2007 and headed west. She’d been working in a factory, but her job didn’t outweigh her need to escape a toxic relationship.

“I just needed to start my life over,” she says, “and Iowa wasn’t big enough for the both of us.”

Pamela eventually ended up in Phoenix. She cared for a family whose father was ill. In return, the family provided her room and board in their home. Things were fine until the father needed care beyond what Pamela could provide. A live-in nurse was called, the family splintered, and Pamela suddenly found herself out on the street.

“It was a nightmare losing my life and my home,” Pamela says.

She discovered Ozanam Manor during a visit to SVdP’s Resource Center for people experiencing homelessness, and in January 2019, she moved in. Immediately, Pamela plugged into the community.

“We’re one family,” she says. “We’re here to love each other, support each other.”

Pamela tapped into every SVdP service she could. She went to classes offered to the residents to coach them on things from managing finances to practicing healthy eating. Even the SVdP Dental Clinic team fit her for new dentures.

“People there are so open armed, open heart, open mind,” she continues. “They give you the time to get your physical together, your spiritual, and your financial.”

For a year and half, Pamela focused on growth and resolving her health issues, finances and housing. During that time, she met Jim, a navy veteran who also was going through the transitional shelter program.

Man and woman sitting on a couch

“We just found we enjoyed each other’s company,” she says. “He was there to get on his feet and get on with his life like I was.”

Working with SVdP case managers, they reestablished their social security checks, and Jim got connected to his VA benefits. Together, they started making plans to move out and become roommates. After Jim bought the trailer, and they secured the RV lot, feelings caught up to them.

“When we finally got here, we were in each other’s arms for a good couple of weeks,” says Pamela, who moved out in June 2020.

They’ve since made the place cozy. And when they want, they drive off for a romantic camping trip or sometimes to visit their SVdP family.

“Without that place, we wouldn’t have anything,” Pamela says. “I’m eternally grateful. Eternally grateful. I wouldn’t have made it through without them. They saved my life.”

The final stretch of our 100 Days of Summer campaign is dedicated to shelter. Help someone on their path to housing with a bed tonight and the hope of a home tomorrow. 

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