LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Louisville emergency shelter for men is celebrating a milestone.

What You Need To Know

  • St. Vincent de Paul's Ozanam Inn is an emergency shelter for men

  • It is marking its 40th year in Louisville 

  • Bill Smith, once a resident of the shelter, has become a board member

For 40 years, St Vincent de Paul's Ozanam Inn has provided sanctuary to men with nowhere else to turn and opportunities in finding a home of their own.

Bill Smith arrived from Georgia one year ago. He had been struggling with homelessness and alcoholism for more than 40 years. However, by the time he came to Louisville in April 2023, he’d been sober for more than 12 months.

“(I) came here for health reasons and reunited with my family in Frankfort," Smith said.

For the first time in many years, Smith began making real progress, advancing through treatment, keeping a job and soon had his own room at the Ozanam Inn. 

“It took a lot of effort on my part; I’ll give you that," he said. "But also, the case management here helped a lot."

In less than a year, Smith was approved for a housing voucher, meaning he would have an apartment of his own.

But even though he was leaving Ozanam Inn, Smith would come back not as a resident but as a member of its leadership team.

“Bill is really going to bring leadership to St. Vincent de Paul in terms of being able to be a voice for people who have actually received our services," said Jennifer Clark, chief operating officer of St. Vincent de Paul. "He’s going to bring that lived experience to our organization, which is going to allow us to serve people better."

As the Ozanam Inn marks 40 years of helping men in crisis, Smith was asked to join its board of directors.

“His story is one of hundreds of examples over the last 40 years at Ozanam Inn of just success," said Tony Nochin of St. Vincent de Paul. "It’s never too late to not only make the right decision, but find help and the support around you to be able to keep going."

At 64 years old, Smith has a new life and is eager to help others find the strength to turn the page.

“Continue to advocate for folks like me, who’ve come through the system or (are) still trapped by the system," Smith said. "Try and help them out of it."

St. Vincent de Paul has 11 different housing programs helping Kentuckians facing many situations, including transitional housing, programs for homeless veterans and women and children in crisis.