“Home” means something a little bit different to everyone. One thing it does mean, for just about anyone, is stability. And building stability for as many people as possible is what we’re all about here at St. Vincent de Paul. Most often, that involves helping people overcome their barriers and arrive at a safe place to call home. Here is one of those stories just in time for the holidays, when we all hold the gift of “home” especially close to heart.

Judy Bullard’s new life at St. Vincent de Paul’s The Phoenix House is leading one way — up.

“I feel like I’ve hit my bottom several times,” allows Judy, 63, a longtime addict now sober for 18 months. “I don’t want to die. Too many people around me I loved and cared about, including family, died behind this addiction. So I choose to live.”

“I thank the good Lord up above that I have this facility so I can continue on my health issues and taking baby steps to get as healthy as I can,” she says. “Today my health is number one in my recovery.”

Opened by St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County (SVdP) in May 2022, The Phoenix House is a sober-living home for women 18 and older who are completing addiction treatment with Willamette Family, Inc. and lacking permanent housing. It’s located at SVdP’s Hub Campus, 717 Hwy. 99N, next-door to a clinic operated by Willamette Family to provide basic medical, mental-health and recovery services for the unhoused.

Homeless, hospitalized … then housed

SVdP’s Dawn to Dawn congregate tent shelter for unhoused adults is also a short walk from The Phoenix House. Judy herself lived in those tents for about three years, her homelessness bound to her methamphetamine and alcohol addictions.

Eventually hospitalized for what she describes as a mental breakdown and suicidal tendencies, and separately for a series of mini-strokes suffered while she was using, Judy entered a three-month treatment program at Willamette Family’s Cheshire Center.

After graduating from that residential program and exhausting other limited resources for short-term housing, Judy became one of the first eight women to move into The Phoenix House and benefit from this unique new supportive-housing partnership between SVdP and Willamette Family.

“I found out about this opening and decided I was going to go for it,” Judy says. “I’m just so grateful for this place.”

Steps to health and stability

Residents of The Phoenix house are allowed to stay for as long as they need it and continue to move forward in their recovery, while paying monthly rent of $300.

In the seven months since she moved in, Judy has settled into a new stability that has enabled her to move forward on many fronts with the ongoing support of her housemates, house manager Jessica Hampton, her Celebrate Recovery sponsor, and others from SVdP and Willamette Family.

Her in-progress “baby steps,” as Judy calls them, include managing her high blood pressure and heart issues through medication and regular visits with a primary care doctor; getting long-needed dental care; benefitting from regular physical therapy sessions; and earning her driver’s license again. She also recently started working a part-time food industry job not far from The Phoenix House.

“Eventually, I know I’m not ready for it now, but eventually I’d like to get into some kind of low-income housing,” Judy says of her next goal. “But right now, I’m just trying to get my health back and stay in my recovery. I have three children I’m very proud of, and they’re so happy to see mom clean and sober. That’s what’s important to me.”

Thanks to her renewed commitment to taking care of her health, Judy also can now walk without a cane consistently for the first time since a devastating 1997 car crash. It required bone grafts to reconstruct her lower legs and left her wheelchair-bound in a nursing home for more than a year.

She recalls asking her surgeon at that time, “Will I ever get out of here? Will I ever be able to walk? And he said, ‘Well, that’s up to you. You can just take baby steps or you can sit in this wheelchair the rest of your life.’ And I chose to grit my teeth and learn how to walk all over again.”

All these years later, with that same determination to take advantage of her opportunity for renewal, Judy is again on the rise.

Please support SVdP’s supportive housing and self-sufficiency programs by making an online donation today!