It’s been decades, but Pat Horton could recall the way his heart pounded and how adrenaline rushed through his veins as he pulled injured bodies out of burning vehicles and airplanes. As an EMT in the Air Force, Pat had a stressful job, but he says, to this day, nothing is as stressful as being homeless and having to live on the streets.
“You just had no sense of what was going to happen to you,” Pat said. “You’re going place to place trying to find safety. You never knew whether you’d get what you need for the day.”
Pat became homeless after serving five months in prison for a drug charge. He was arrested for having about an ounce of marijuana in his car. Arizona has some of the strictest laws pertaining to marijuana in the country.
At 57 years old, Pat slept on the streets and in daily shelters when he could get in. Finally, a staff member from the department of veterans affairs recommended Ozanam Manor, St. Vincent de Paul’s shelter for people who are over 50 years old or with disabilities.
Different than a daily shelter model, where people get a bed to sleep for the night and leave in the morning, Ozanam Manor is a transitional shelter that houses residents until they are able to move into their own housing. Residents are paired with volunteer mentors to help them navigate barriers like medical and legal issues, and seek opportunities like career training and additional education.
With the help of staff and volunteers, Pat was able to earn a commercial drivers license through a grant that paid his tuition. Pat received bus passes to go to the VA hospital for medical appointments. He also was able to get some neglected dental issues treated through SVdP’s Virginia G. Piper Medical and Dental Clinic.
“Ozanam Manor was my best first step at a second chance,” Pat said. “They’ve covered all of my needs and gave me time to help me move forward.”
In a couple of weeks, Pat and over two dozen veterans will be the last group of residents to move from Ozanam Manor’s original location near Van Buren and 16th streets to the newly opened facility at SVdP’s main campus at 420 W. Watkins Road. The expanded shelter provides 60 beds additional common spaces and opportunities for residents to volunteer at SVdP’s Urban Farm, kitchen and food bank.
“I can’t wait,” Pat said. “I can’t say enough good things about the people here and all they’ve done for me. The new shelter is so nice and so beautiful. It just shows how much they care.”
However, as much as Pat is looking forward to living in the new Ozanam Manor, he’s even more excited to start his new job as a truck driver and to save enough money for his own apartment. His goal is to move into his own home in 30 to 60 days.
“It feels good to have a clean slate. I’ve dealt with my past,” Pat said. “I don’t have to look over my shoulder, afraid of what will haunt me anymore. This place gave me a place to lay my head at night and gave me all I need to start my second chance on life.”