St. Vincent de Paul Louisville works in conjunction with the Veterans Administration office to serve homeless veterans. The program provides a room and bed at our men’s emergency shelter, Ozanam Inn, and houses 20 veterans at any given moment. Veterans stay on campus and work with a case manager to get all the benefits available to them through the VA. The veterans have access to mental health and substance use treatment on campus, and they work to become self-reliant. The ultimate goal of the program is to help veterans get off the street and into homes of their own. Our case managers, counselors, and benefits navigators work tirelessly to help these veterans find homes.
Shana Burnley is the case manager for our Veterans Program.* She works with the men from referral to home. This relationship can last for a few months or a year, depending on the needs of each man. She takes them through the bureaucracy that can be difficult for the veterans to manage. She is a sounding board to their fears and frustrations, and she brings the veterans hope of a better future.
“These veterans need empathy and compassion,” Shana explains. “Sometimes all they need is to know they’ve been heard.”
When asked why she feels such empathy toward the veterans, Shana explains that she has many veterans in her life. “Both my dad and my husband are vets,” she smiles. “Our veterans know that I get it.”
Shana says that each veteran is special, with his own needs and goals. “I have one gentleman who came into the program and within a few weeks, he was ready to start looking for a home,” she says. “I’ve had others who have been here a year. Everyone is in their own place on the path to self-sufficiency.”
When asked about a proud moment for her, Shana tells us about “Nate.” Nate came to St. Vincent de Paul Louisville at a low point in his life. Homelessness and poverty had left him feeling hopeless. “I think he was close to giving up,” Shana remembers. “But we started talking and started taking steps to get Nate the benefits he needs, and I saw him open up. I saw the hope in his eyes.”
Nate now has a job, and he is working with Shana to find a home of his own. For the first time in a long time, Nate feels like he has a chance. Because of the VA program and our work at St. Vincent de Paul, Nate is on the road home.