Arrival in Oregon
“They kicked me out of homelessness,” Michael Williams likes to say when explaining how St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County (SVdP) helped elevate him from chronic homelessness into supported housing.
Michael first arrived at SVdP’s Eugene Service Station (ESS) in January 2022. He’d already been homeless for more than two years since arriving in Oregon in 2019 by way of Sacramento, Calif. A falling out with a business partner and other factors led to Williams becoming unsheltered in 2020 and having to seek help through Roseburg Rescue.
Michael spent eight months with Roseburg Rescue while simultaneously working at a local store. He eventually left the program to become a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman, something he’d had experience in while living in California. Williams worked as a caregiver through 2021 when he decided to head for Portland. Unfortunately, one bad decision stopped his trip short: Williams got a DUI while in Eugene and a pending court date made it impossible for him to leave.
“I landed in this town with nothing but a DUI and expecting to move on to Portland,” he says. “I’ve experienced three bouts of episodic homelessness over the last decade, from Sacramento to Roseburg; in each area, and with each service provider, I never did fit the model for rescue.”
Michael bounced through multiple local homeless programs in Eugene before finally coming to ESS, where he found placement in SVdP’s Dusk to Dawn congregate tent shelter. From Dusk to Dawn, he eventually moved to SVdP’s 410 Garfield Safe Sleep Site; however, his time there was to be short-lived. Michael’s status as a four-year Navy veteran was quickly made known, and he was connected through SVdP’s Vet LIFT program. Within three days of being at 410 Garfield, he was moved into transitional housing on March 6, 2022. SVdP also assisted in the purchase of furniture and necessities for the unit through its voucher program.
“I had advanced to 410 Garfield at the end of February and was only there three days when Renae of Vet LIFT told me that I would be moving to transitional housing,” Michael says. “Renae set such a benchmark of professionalism that my ultimate placement back in society was much higher than I ever would have achieved alone.”
Housed at last, after years of moving from shelter to shelter, Michael says he was finally able to focus on his passion for writing. During the more than three months he spent living in supported housing through Vet LIFT, he started writing a creative nonfiction work titled “A Letter to my Grandkids” which he is still working on to this day.
Fast-forward to the present and Michael is still housed. He was able to move into more permanent affordable housing in 2022 and remains there today. To give back to the organization that he says, “kicked him out of homelessness,” Michael started volunteering with Egan Warming Centers this season and was among those first responders who stepped up during January’s destructive Willamette Valley ice storm.
“As one might imagine, three nights at Wheeler Pavilion during an ice storm was easier than one night in tent city,” he says of volunteering during the cold-weather crisis. “Egan is a means for everyday people to drop their barriers to helping the homeless; it is, quite frankly, a license to love.”
Michael’s full-circle story — from client experiencing homelessness to volunteer helping the unhoused — is one often seen at SVdP. His rapid progression showcases the effectiveness of SVdP’s programs, designed to meet people where they are and elevate them from homelessness into housing and stability.
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