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Meet a veteran living at Ozanam Manor

Damian Carlos Rincon shares about the camaraderie and hope he's found at SVdP's transitional shelter

Out of the 60 beds in St. Vincent de Paul's Ozanam Manor transitional shelter, 23 are reserved for veterans. Damian Carlos Rincon, who served nine years in the Army as an infantryman and mortarman, currently lives at the shelter and holds one of those cherished spots.

Damian's service career called him to Germany, Japan, Panama, and Kuwait, but he was fortunate to never see combat.  

Ozanam Manor, or Oz for short, gives Damian a stable, safe place to lie his head after losing his housing because of divorce and unsteady work. Beyond a bed, Oz provides food and case management to help him cope with life’s struggles and find a way get back on his feet. 

In his short time at his new temporary home, Damian has been able to form strong bonds with many of the other residents, guests and staff members. 

Heading into Veteran's Day, SVdP took the opportunity to sit down with Damian and see what it’s like to be a veteran in Oz.  

What did your service look like? 
Damian Carlos Rincon: I’m very proud of my service and my servicemen, and I love my country’s men and women. I served the United States Army. 11-Charlie/11-Bravo, which means that I was a mortarman. And then I became a regular 11-Bravo which is an infantryman. I served bootcamp in Fort Benning, Georgia, and also received AIT, which is an advanced infantry training there. I served at Fort Hood, and at Fort Lewis,  

Ozanam Manor has several beds devoted to veterans, how does it feel to have a space that is created specifically for you? 
It feels good to be with other vets like-minded folks, we are a huge family, no matter if you're Navy, Army Reserves, Coast Guard. You're all my brothers and sisters and we have a fraternity… In bringing me here, I reconnected with a lot of vets here and I'm so grateful that there is a place for vets. There should be more. 

How has your interaction with the Oz staff been? 
I keep saying it all the time, the staff here wears a halo, they don't even know it. Miracles happen here every day… They're here to help you in every conceivable way. They bend over backwards for us… They're probably the kindest people I've ever met. That's the kind of people they are. They made such an impact on me that I'm going to come back to work here because this is where it is. If you want to help, this is it right here. 

Being here at SVdP, they treat us so well. They make sure that we're taking our meds. They make sure that we have rides. They make sure that we have good food to eat and a warm place to sleep, a safe place — a safe haven. You could worship here, any religion you want. And there's a chapel here, you can go ahead and do your thing with God, which is very, very important. And then there's caseworkers that you talk to every week about anything. My caseworker happens to be a vet. I got lucky. So, me and him talk and chop it up all the time, and he's been where I am. I respect that man 110% because he's our hero. He's the guy who made it. If he can do it, we can do it 

Who’s your case worker? 
Miles. He’s amazing… You could be totally honest with this man. I've been able to open up and talk to him, and he's counseled me on so many things. I have a great rapport with him and with all the regular staff. The people in charge here are amazing. Julia [Matthies] and her boss and then all the people here at the Resource Center. 

What do you appreciate about SVdP? 
An organization like this, that has a clear understanding of where homelessness is and how to help these people, to be loving and caring enough for an individual you don't even know. They take you in; they give you a hug. They say, “It's gonna be alright.” 

St. Vincent's is a light in the darkness. They give you that second chance to get back on your feet and to right your wrongs. And it also gives you an opportunity to help other people. I’ll tell you what, people on the street are so giving and so loving, but they're untrustworthy of people. So, this place gives us a place to heal, to relearn some things that we forgot about life. 

The hardest thing is not having support, a support group to help you. This is a built-in support group. They cheer you on every day. They have a nice word for you every day. Even when you mess up, these people bend over backwards for you. 

Would you recommend others to get involved at Ozanam Manor and at SVdP? 
If [any people] are looking for a place to donate money, this will be the perfect place because you see it happening. It's an alive place. It's a place that you can come here and take a deep breath and then make a plan. It's a place you can come for me. It's a place for me to come and heal. 

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