Over the past few years since the pandemic began, life has become more difficult for many Miamians, in particular those on a limited and fixed income such as senior citizens. With Miami-Dade’s quickly rising affordable housing crisis, there is a rapidly growing homeless population with limited options to be housed. What does one do when they find themselves priced out and unable to find a place to live within their means?

They hopefully call Miami Dade County’s Homeless Hotline, with prevention calls managed by Camillus House, and subsequently get much-needed assistance. In addition to decades of providing outreach and basic services, Camillus House offers hope by supplying shelter, food, clothing, skills and a daily structure, so formerly homeless individuals create independent lives.

They also provide permanent, supportive housing for individuals in several Camillus owned and/or operated facilities such as St. Rose located in South Miami-Dade. Most of the residents there are 55+ and consider themselves among the lucky ones who have a permanent place to call home. One such resident is Billy Lipford, the youngest child from a family of 13 who is grateful for the help he’s receiving from Camillus House. “I’m very indebted to Camillus and I believe I’ve found peace my in life,” said Lipford.

In 2009, Lipford arrived from Tennessee following construction jobs and when the job ended, he wanted to stay in Miami. “Sometimes when you are going through it you don’t know how to make the best choices,” said Lipford. He stayed in Miami but ended up addicted to medication used to dull pain sustained from spinal issues brought on by lifelong work in construction. After Billy had to undergo emergency back surgery the hospital arranged for him to be placed at Camillus House because he had nowhere to recover from the operation.

When receiving medical attention, he learned of an untreated mental illness and recognized how bad things had gotten for him. “From a young age, I was alone and didn’t have people to depend on in troubled times.” At 18 he hit the road to find himself and roamed the country by bus seeking work. His strict family upbringing focused on an ethos of doing it yourself, and he was taught to never ask for help.

Now he realizes seeking help isn’t a weakness, “when you hit rock bottom like I did. Housing is important so you can work on how to get out of the situation you find yourself in,” said Lipford. Since 2018 when Lipford arrived at St. Rose he has felt safe and protected by Camillus House, especially since like so many others seeking refuge at Camillus House, Lipford had lost touch with his family. Billy has since found a family with Camillus.

Today, he is amazed at the love and inspiration he received from Camillus House and specifically, his case manager, Ms. Tammy Stone (pictured), who helps manage the facility: 56-beds in quaint cottages with meeting rooms, a kitchen, and recreational areas.

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