Mary Perez has faced many challenges in her life. She is a cancer survivor, disabled and requires the assistance of a mobility scooter because she is unable to walk. She has also been homeless. Despite these and other difficulties, she never lost faith in God.
“I always trusted in God,” said Perez.
Her life changed forever when she was able to find safe, permanent housing at Ozanam Village, an apartment community in New Port Richey built by St. Vincent de Paul CARES.
On May 25, 2021, St. Vincent de Paul CARES celebrated the completion of the third phase of Ozanam Village, a $5 million dollar project that provides 30 one and two-bedroom apartments. The opening ceremony included a variety of speakers, music, prayer, ribbon-cutting and blessing by Bishop Gregory Parkes.
“We established a vision of Courageously Living the Gospel three years ago. One of our goals was to establish 8-10 new locations of affordable housing throughout the five counites of the diocese. We’re well on our way of doing that,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes.
Six projects of affordable housing have been established in the Diocese of St. Petersburg since 2018 and at least seven others are in the works.
“It’s a command that our Lord gave us to care for the poor and provide shelter. What we do for the least among us, we do for Him,” added Bishop Parkes.
Michael Raposa, CEO of St. Vincent de Paul CARES called the apartments, a “dwelling place of love.” The buildings are named for Society of St. Vincent de Paul founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam.
“In the spirit of our founder Frederic Ozanam, this project provides stable housing and support for those with special needs, including those with disabilities or requiring independent living services,” said Raposa. “We are committed to bringing about an end to homelessness through projects like this, with more planned for the future.”
Forty-nine church conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Diocese of St. Petersburg provide homeless prevention to neighbors in need with rent, utilities, food, clothing and household goods. St. Vincent de Paul CARES provides direct homeless assistance through supportive services program rapid rehousing, emergency housing assistance, supportive housing assistance and direct provider of housing in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
During the blessing of the homes, Bishop Parkes prayed in part, “Almighty God, be close to those who will move into these apartments. Be their shelter when they are at home, their companion when they are away their welcome guest when they return.”
Project partners include Pasco County, Florida Housing Finance Corporation, NDC Asset Management, Bradley Construction, and Ability Housing.