Society of St. Vincent de Paul Pilots Jobs Program for Homeless & Working Poor in Arizona

Strengthening the workforce and helping to position and prepare under and unemployed individuals for career advancement and greater self-sufficiency is an important focus area of the Opus Foundation®.

Supporting mission-driven nonprofits has been a fundamental part of our culture for more than six decades. One of those organizations is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) in Phoenix.

SVdP is developing a program to help adults experiencing homelessness find and secure jobs starting with a six-month internship at its dining halls and farm. SVdP recently received a $25,000 Impact Fund grant to pilot the program.

Safety Net for the Homeless

For more than 70 years, SVdP has worked tirelessly to end homelessness and respond to other emergencies by feeding, clothing, housing and healing people in Arizona.

In 2020, the nonprofit prepared and served 2.84 million meals in their five dining rooms, distributed 5.1 million pounds of food through food boxes, harvested 29,200 pounds of fresh produce at their urban farms, provided 16,300 free medical and dental services and sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness for 28,400 nights. 

Those are significant statistics representing thousands of people who need basic essentials.

“We understand that in addition to food, people need wrap-around services," said Jill Collins, SVdP Grants Manager. “SVdP is a holistic, mission-driven organization. Every day I'm so inspired by the people I work with here. They are like a band of angels helping those who need it most."

Workforce Training and Support to End Homelessness

In 2020, homelessness in Greater Phoenix increased by 18%. Food insecurity also accelerated drastically.

Needs have never been greater, nor opportunities harder to find.

That was especially clear in SVdP's dining rooms, which continued providing 4,000+ to-go meals every day, but saw new faces of need.

“Our dining room managers work closely with clients and get to know them well," said Collins. “In the process, the managers noticed that many clients lack confidence. If you aren't self-assured, it's difficult to land a job. People need skills, but they also need to believe in themselves."

Thus came the idea for an apprenticeship-style, confidence-building workforce development program for people experiencing homelessness.

Twenty client Guest Interns will participate in the 2021 pilot program. They'll receive training in food service, agriculture, janitorial, maintenance and skid loader operations as well as resume writing and interviewing skills. Participants will gain confidence by working 25 – 30 hours per week in SVdP's dining rooms and urban farms. They will receive grocery support, a bus pass, laundry service, work clothes, shoes and toiletries.

SVdP will help graduates secure employment through a partnership with St. Joseph the Worker, another Phoenix nonprofit organization, as well as through relationships with local farms, nurseries and “big box" companies such as The Home Depot. 

“Building on the success of the pilot, we will expand the program to help many more people secure employment and change the trajectory of their lives," Collins said.

“We are so grateful for the Opus Foundation's generosity," she said. “A grant of this size is a big deal. And it was the second sizeable grant we received from the Foundation in 2020, which was an extraordinarily challenging year."

Emergency Help Amidst a Pandemic

Last spring, the Opus Foundation provided SVdP with a $30,000 COVID-19 emergency response grant.

 “Overnight, we had to shift into overdrive," Collins said. “In lieu of serving meals in our dining rooms, we developed a to-go, prepared-meal model. Packaging meals, stringent sanitizing protocols and social distancing logistics increased the cost of each meal by at least $2.75. The emergency grant from the Opus Foundation helped to offset costs and enabled us to continue feeding thousands of people each day."

They did that and more.

Between March and November 2020, SVdP provided almost 90,000 more meals to partner agencies compared to the same timeframe in 2019. The organization also delivered an additional 1 million pounds of emergency food boxes, helped 1,800+ families avoid homelessness by granting $2.98 million in rent and utility financial assistance.

“Without the kind of support we receive from the Opus Foundation, we would be unable to deliver the services our community members so desperately need," Collins said.

The Opus Foundation has supported SVdP programs with grants totaling more than $120,100.


The Opus Foundation® is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.