Ozanam Inn Men’s Emergency Shelter Celebrates 40 Years

by | Apr 8, 2024 | News, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

When Ben was released from prison after one year, he had nowhere to go.

His apartment and belongings were gone, and he had no one to lean on. He stayed at local shelters, but had to leave in the early morning hours.

“I had to go from one part of town to the other just to get some help. I was homeless. I had no vehicle. It was unbearable. I couldn’t do it,” Ben said.

Last July, Ben arrived at Ozanam Inn Men’s Emergency Shelter before moving into an efficiency apartment in January.

“Ozanam Inn being 24/7 was helpful to me because I didn’t have to leave. I could take care of my business right there at St. Vincent de Paul,” Ben added. “They had all the case management, counselors, and partner organizations come onto campus. They had everything for you. Housing. Food every day. Laundry. Everything you needed to get yourself together.”

For the last 40 years, Ozanam Inn has been—in Ben’s words—a place where you can get yourself together. It’s a place of second, third, and fourth chances. In fact, we don’t count.

“I appreciate this place so much,” added Paul, a former client at Ozanam Inn who secured housing. “It gave me a place of structure, especially since I was an alcoholic. I was in jail for 15 months. I had a lot of time to think, so I wanted to get my life right. This place helped me do it.”

Paul, a former client at Ozanam Inn who secured housing.

It’s a place where we help men reflect on the past so they move towards a brighter future, renew their strength, and begin dreaming again.

“As guys in here, we come from a long way. All of us have different problems and issues,” said Sam, a client at Ozanam Inn. “I greatly appreciate my time here because it’s not permanent stability, it’s just temporary for me to get better.”

“I was homeless for a while and sleeping in parks, but by the grace of God I found St. Vincent de Paul. There’s a lot of love here,” added Earl Ray, a client at Ozanam Inn. “I gave up hope and then I found hope.”

Earl Ray, a client at Ozanam Inn.

Al Terry has worked third shift as an Ozanam Inn Program Aide for 16 years.

“Ozanam Inn has always been a place to help people. I’ve always liked working here because it gives you the opportunity to speak to people and let them see for themselves that they’re worth something. A lot of people don’t think they’re worth nothing. And that’s wrong.”

Al Terry has worked third shift as an Ozanam Inn Program Aide since 2008.

From a school to a shelter

Since April 1984, Ozanam Inn has been a sanctuary from the extreme heat and harsh winters for many Louisville natives and out-of-towners alike.

Ozanam Inn was named after Frederic Ozanam, the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences. In 1982, the Archdiocese of Louisville donated the St. Paul School building, St. Paul Catholic
Church, and the rectory—all of which are adjacent buildings—to us. Ozanam Inn opened after being remodeled in the former St. Paul School building.

At the time, we were housing 25 people at a shelter on First Street, but they were moved to Ozanam Inn after the remodel was complete. It opened roughly six months after the Open Hand Kitchen, which provides easy access for residents to receive three meals a day.

Today, Ozanam Inn is 24/7 with no daily check-out required and serves 50 individuals per night including 10 private rooms. This provides 18,250 bed-nights per year. We also provide 20 beds for Veterans in private rooms through our Veterans Transitional Housing Program.

“As a previous Louisville Metro Councilwoman, I worked directly with the Shelby Park community, including St. Vincent de Paul Louisville, and witnessed the incredible work of this organization
to provide emergency and transitional shelter, affordable housing, and critical wrap-around services,” said Deputy Mayor Barbara Sexton Smith.

In the last 10 years (March 2014 to March 2024), we have served 2,715 men and 444 exited to permanent housing.

“Ozanam Inn is one of Louisville’s leading providers of evidence-based and trauma-informed shelter services,” said Carey Addison, Healthcare for the Homeless Supervisor for Family Health Centers of Louisville-Phoenix. “I’m very grateful for this partnership in moving our city’s unhoused population toward
safe and stable housing.”

‘A special place’

The ripple effect of Ozanam Inn has been felt by clients, staff, and partner organizations across the community.

“I enjoy interacting with our clients and trying to give them hope because I’ve been homeless before and you can feel hopeless,” said Lead Program Aide LaShara Birdsong. “Some of them have addictions, and I had one. Some of them have kids, and so do I. I tell them it’s hard to change, but it’s possible.”

Cory Bledsoe, former SVDP staff member and Executive Director of Re:Center Ministries, said Ozanam Inn holds “a special place in his heart.”

“I could share story after story of how it has been a steadfast resource for the community and … touches so many people in so many ways,” Bledsoe said.

Ozanam Inn has a lounge area with TV viewing, case management offices, a computer room, showers, laundry facilities, a workout room, and a social pavilion.

Major renovations underway

Ozanam Inn will undergo major renovations in May. Renovations include a more welcoming and efficient entry experience, accessibility upgrades with a three-story elevator, updated infrastructure, new lighting, reworked communal spaces, and additional changes.

“This renovation goes beyond providing basic services,” said Christopher Manzo, AIA, founder and principal of design firm SNDBX. “It strives to create a space that fosters dignity, stability, and ultimately, the opportunity for individuals to rebuild their lives.”

By Tony Nochim
Source: https://www.svdplou.org/

St. Vincent de Paul Louisville (USA)