A guest at Oz eyes the proctors of the game of BINGO.

Bingo and other games bring the spice of life to Ozanam Manor

Oz guests are having more fun than ever B-4!

"BINGO!" yelled out a guest in one of the television rooms at St. Vincent de Paul's Ozanam Manor. They were at one of the regular community events. This week was a friendly game of, you guessed it, bingo! 

The room was lined with guests from Ozanam Manor (OZ), SVdP's shelter for veterans, 55+, and adults with disabilities, and each were either intently staring down at their card or up at the person pulling the bingo numbers — or in this case the bingo symbols. It was the holidays and they were using special bingo cards that featured fun holiday-related items like peppermint candies and gingerbread houses.

Volunteers and staff wandered from guest to guest to make sure they had marked all of their squares (or in some cases, to make sure no one was cheating). Maria Castro, Ozanam Manor's wellness coordinator, even pointed out to a couple players that they had gotten bingo and didn't realize it.

A guest watches his BINGO card during a game in Oz.

This and other games have become a regular occurrence in Oz thanks to Maria and the staff at Oz. She sets up several events and activities, like bible studies, financial workshops, arts and crafts, AA meetings, Nacho Tuesdays, and more, throughout the week to help pull guests out of their rooms — and their shells. 

"When I say there's bingo, guests say, 'Okay I'm there,'" Maria said. Guests prefer gift cards for prizes, but still appreciate the jackpots when they're of a more practical variety: deodorant, body wash, toiletry packets, and wallets.

As guests go through their rehousing journey, it's normal for them to become more withdrawn. There's a lack of control and autonomy when they're working to end their homelessness. Case managers work hard to help guests regain control in their lives, but while living at Oz having people like Maria who keep morale and motivation high are important — not to mention that activities also just make the place more fun. 

"We have events like that because when they're able to engage with other people," Maria said. "It brightens up their days, it makes them happy. They're able to be a part of a community."

A group of guests eye each other as the game of BINGO intensifies.

Jeffrey Belcher (aka JB), one of the guests at Oz and a frequent attendee of Bingo days and other activities, can't help but agree. He said these events not only make their stay more enjoyable, but they help motivate them to achieve their housing goals.

"I didn't even realize how important that was to my morale," JB said. "I'm glad you guys got a program for people like me. It's nothing but a blessing."

Stephanie Wise, the lead case manger at Oz, added that they're not just there to feed their bodies, but, "We feed their souls."

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