Michael Clark stands in the living room of his new apartment.

A temporary home, a lasting community

After narrowly avoiding living in his car, Michael Clark made lasting connections at Ozanam Manor before moving into a new home

After decades of public service, Michael Clark found himself grieving, alone, and about to live out of his car before St. Vincent de Paul was able to save him from spending a night on the street.

When Michael retired from his career with the post office in Chicago, he and his wife moved to Phoenix to be with their daughter. Last year, after more than 50 years of marriage, Michael’s wife passed away from Alzheimer’s disease.  

Aside from already being a tragic time, it came with more bad news: Michael’s daughter, with whom they had been living, told him he needed to move out in three months. Some tensions had arisen during the parents’ time there, especially around differences in religion.  

Michael spent those months looking for an affordable apartment to move into, but with his sole income being a monthly $770 social security check, he found nothing he could afford. He started calling up agencies who could help, but progress was slow and it didn’t look like he’d have a place before he had to move out.  

Michael started to come up with plans for what would happen if he couldn’t find a home. He figured he’d live out of his car and park in fast food parking lots at night, so he’d have a place to get food in the morning.

He made one last-ditch call to the Veterans Affairs office in Arizona, and they said they had a place for him at a transitional housing shelter called Ozanam Manor (Oz) run by SVdP for people 50+ and/or living with disabilities. He moved in later that day and was fortunate enough to not have to spend any time on the street.  

The staff showed him to his new private space, which included his own bed, a desk, and an armoire for any of his possessions. He also had access to showers, three hot meals daily, and a case manager to help him work through his rehousing journey.

“If they hadn't taken me in, I probably would have been just living out of my car. I wouldn't have been able to financially take care of myself,” Michael said.

Normally content to spend his time alone, Michael plugged into the community at Oz. Sober for 25 years, he started attending the A.A. meetings held weekly in one of the shelter’s television rooms.  

He also took his time to save as much of his social security money that he could to put toward move-in and other housing expenses, but when he was approved by the VA with a housing voucher, he found out he wouldn’t have to spend anything because SVdP was able to help him pay all of his move-in expenses, and then furnish his new home through SVdP’s Home Furnishings Program.  

Michael was able to move into his new apartment on December 7, 2023, having spent just over 100 days in Ozanam Manor. Thanks to the VA voucher, he only spends 30% of his income on rent, keeping his expenses affordable and his living situation dignified.

Now, Michael has settled into his new home. He likes spending time in his place and is slowly getting to know other members of his South Phoenix apartment community. But he hasn’t said goodbye completely to SVdP.  

Every week, he returns to Oz to attend the A.A. meeting — not because he feels the need to for his sobriety, but because he wants to see the friends he made.

“I am really grateful. They got me back on my feet and found a place for me to stay,” Michael said. “I was really happy to be there because I didn't know where [I would have ended up.]”