The non-profit will soon start building a 40,000-square-foot building that will increase the homeless, medical and dental services offered by the organization. The construction is adjacent to its existing dining room and clinics south of downtown.
A south Phoenix dirt lot will soon transform into a shelter for dozens of people experiencing homelessness, through the biggest expansion of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s main campus in more than two decades.
Non-profit and religious leaders broke ground Friday on a 40,000-square-foot building that will increase the homeless, medical and dental services offered by the organization. The construction is adjacent to its existing dining room and clinics south of downtown.
The shelter space for about 60 adults who are over the age of 50 or have disabilities will replace a similar facility losing its lease a few miles away. The extra room for homeless outreach and other services comes at a time when St. Vincent de Paul’s programs all exceed capacity, speakers said.
A roughly two-year fundraising campaign raised nearly all of the $16 million needed for the project, said Shannon Clancy, chief philanthropy officer. That model is the first of its kind for the campus.
“It’s really a miracle,” she said.
Shelter to serve older adults, people with disabilities
The project, set to open in about a year, comes as concerns about homelessness are increasing throughout the Valley.
Meanwhile, St. Vincent de Paul knew it was losing a lease on shelter space owned by the city of Phoenix where the organization serves about 45 older adults and people with disabilities. It is the only shelter in the state catering to that population, Executive Director Stephen Zabilski said.
The new facility will ensure no disruption to that service, Zabilski said. People experiencing homelessness are referred from a variety of outreach programs and providers to work with caseworkers on housing and employment plans.
Eric Heizleman, 57, has lived at the current shelter for about nine months after a black widow bite landed him in the hospital. The army veteran is receiving medical treatment for other injuries, and he said the program provides housing stability while he recovers.
An added benefit of the new building is that it’s next door to St. Vincent de Paul’s other services, which will expand with the extra space. Heizleman said he received a full set of dentures and new eyeglasses from the organization.
“It restored my faith in human kindness,” he said. “Where else do you get it?”
Project was a leap of faith
Catholic leaders blessed the site before attendees turned the first shovels of dirt. They said the facility, funded by the community, should enliven faith and gratitude.
The capital campaign is the biggest of any St. Vincent de Paul in the country, Zabilski said.
It was a leap of faith for a non-profit that depends on donors to run its other programs, Clancy said. But she said the organization knew the project had to happen.
“We have too many people who have no place to go already,” Clancy said.
St. Vincent de Paul is about $1 million away from its capital goal, Clancy said. It is now also fundraising for a general endowment.
The shelter is a big vision, Clancy said, and people responded.
“There’s certainly an element of the holy spirit in that,” she said.
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