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Housed for the holidays

SVdP helped Susan and Tom move from a shed to their own apartment just in time for the holidays

Before receiving help from St. Vincent de Paul, Susan Miller and her husband Tom, lived in a shed with a dirt floor. They hadn't been able to do laundry for eight months and were showering with a hose. They'd lived in such rough conditions since first experiencing homelessness in 2021.

But this holiday season, SVdP made sure they didn’t lose their shot at a nice apartment and helped turned their new place into a home. Thanks to the collaboration of the Social Work Services team and SVdP’s Home Furnishings Program, Susan and Tom received funds to cover their move-in deposit and also received a warm welcome home with a turkey, food box, and furniture.

"There’s a saying in Spanish, ‘Hoy por ti, mañana por mi,’ which means ‘Today for you, tomorrow for me,’" SVdP’s Mission Advancement Outreach Officer Norma Carillo said. “I love that saying because that’s what we do.”

Getting Susan and Tom into housing felt especially critical given Tom’s health. Susan had been doing everything she could to support Tom, who is suffering from a rare form of cancer in his eye called uveal ocular melanoma. Only five in every one million people are diagnosed with the disease.

"You can't keep a person with cancer in the dirt," Susan said. "And when you ask them what they'd like to have, and they say the only thing they want is quality of life, you have a major goal [to provide that]."

When SVdP first met Susan, she had already started her journey to improving their life together. She became a participant in WEDCO, a vocational training program, which paired her with volunteer opportunities at SVdP to gain useful job skills and help improve her employability.

"She gave up her entire story to me and I knew that I need to go above and beyond for her because she had a will where I just knew she was going to be successful, and I wanted to help support that," said Kristine Schmitz, Susan's employment specialist with WEDCO. Kristine took Susan under her wing and encouraged her progress.

"With vocational rehabilitation training, I had like 100 different places to choose from, and I chose St. Vincent de Paul because they’ve helped me before, and I wanted to help them out," Susan said.

As it turns out, SVdP would help Susan again. When staff learned that strained finances put her at risk for losing a new apartment she and Tom had found through the Arizona’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, SVdP stepped in to pay their deposit. And when rain had ruined most of their shed furniture, causing it to mold, SVdP stepped in to completely refurnish their new apartment.

On move-in day, Susan couldn't help but hug many of the people who moved in a new bed, table, chairs and all kinds of household essentials. A few tears were definitely shed.

"We’re just so happy that at St. Vincent de Paul we have the opportunity to help," Norma said, "and to see them go through the process of moving from the street to now having a house and us being able to furnish the house and see their happy faces for the holidays."

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