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Inside Swords, Generations of Veterans, 40 years of Healing and Hope


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Our 40th anniversary brings a host of exciting updates. In 2014, we saw a massive expansion within Swords to Plowshares and our ability to serve more veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. With nearly 180 employees providing services at seven housing sites, our San Francisco Drop-in Center and new location in Oakland, our ability to reach veterans has never been stronger.

In 1974, we started with a single grant and a small location on Valencia Street. Now, 40 years later with an annual budget of $15 million, we are still doing the same thing we set out to do—heal the wounds of
war, restore dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency to all veterans in need, and to prevent and end homelessness and poverty among veterans.

With reported homelessness figures at a 10-year low in San Francisco, the impact from the hard work we do to address veteran homelessness is clearly seen. Supportive housing and eviction protection are essential to keeping veterans and their families housed and stable.

All of us at Swords are honored to help veterans turn their lives around. The staff at Swords to Plowshares and our supporters are deeply committed to providing culturally appropriate and comprehensive services to veterans and advocating on behalf of the men and women who have served our country. In 2014 alone, we helped more than 3,000 veterans and their families overcome obstacles while transitioning from combat to community, yet there are still so many more who need our help here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Over the years Swords to Plowshares has helped countless veterans overcome adversity. As we enter our fifth decade of service to our nation’s veterans, we invite you to look back with us at a snapshot of the clients we’ve served over the years. In this special edition newsletter, you will find ‘40 Stories of Success’ that highlight our 40 years of service.


Michael Blecker
Executive Director
Vietnam Combat Veteran
U.S. Army, 1967-1970

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Inside Swords, Generations of Veterans, 40 years of Healing and Hope

  1. 1. INSIDE SWORDS Spring 2015 A publication of Swords to Plowshares, for our friends, clients and donors years Healing and Hope
  2. 2. 2 Dear Friends, Our 40th anniversary brings a host of exciting updates. In 2014, we saw a massive expansion within Swords to Plowshares and our ability to serve more veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. With nearly 180 employees providing services at seven housing sites, our San Francisco Drop-in Center and new location in Oakland, our ability to reach veterans has never been stronger. In 1974, we started with a single grant and a small location on Valencia Street. Now, 40 years later with an annual budget of $15 million, we are still doing the same thing we set out to do—heal the wounds of war, restore dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency to all veterans in need, and to prevent and end homelessness and poverty among veterans. With reported homelessness figures at a 10-year low in San Francisco, the impact from the hard work we do to address veteran homelessness is clearly seen. Supportive housing and eviction protection are essential to keeping veterans and their families housed and stable. All of us at Swords are honored to help veterans turn their lives around. The staff at Swords to Plowshares and our supporters are deeply committed to providing culturally appropriate and comprehensive services to veterans and advocating on behalf of the men and women who have served our country. In 2014 alone, we helped more than 3,000 veterans and their families overcome obstacles while transitioning from combat to community, yet there are still so many more who need our help here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the years Swords to Plowshares has helped countless veterans overcome adversity. As we enter our fifth decade of service to our nation’s veterans, we invite you to look back with us at a snapshot of the clients we’ve served over the years. In this special edition newsletter, you will find ‘40 Stories of Success’ that highlight our 40 years of service. Sincerely, Michael Blecker Executive Director Vietnam Combat Veteran U.S. Army, 1967-1970 When Their Service Ends, Our Mission Begins War causes wounds and suffering that last beyond the battlefield. Swords to Plowshares’ mission is to heal the wounds, to restore dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency to all veterans in need, and to prevent and end homelessness and poverty among veterans. Founded in 1974, Swords to Plowshares is a community-based not-for-profit organization that provides counseling and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. We promote and protect the rights of veterans through advocacy, public education and partnerships with local, state and national entities. Our Vision All veterans will have access to the care and services they need to rebuild their lives. Our Model Our model of care is based on the philosophy that the obstacles veterans face—including homelessness, unemployment and disability— are interrelated and require an integrated network of support within the community and continuum of care. 2 Letter from Michael Blecker 3 Ending Veteran Homelessness 4-5 A Year in Review 6-7 Veterans Legacy Circle 8-19 40 Years of Service, 40 Stories of Success 20-21 Our History at a Glance 22-23 Pro Bono Program IN THIS ISSUE LETTER FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
  3. 3. 3 Last year, President Obama challenged America’s major cities to end veteran homelessness once and for all. Mayors from 40 states accepted the challenge—and so have we! Teamed with the office of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, we’ve taken on the task of getting homeless veterans off the streets and into supportive housing programs. As of November 2014, there were approximately 720 homeless veterans in San Francisco—a 20% reduction from 2011—and a direct result of the work we do to place veterans in housing facilities that support their needs. Our most recent effort is 250 Kearny. The former Stanford Hotel, a squalid building once described by a city inspector as a “horror show” that was unlivable and filled with garbage and filth, has been renovated into modern housing units made up of hardwood floors banisters, warm brick, communal kitchens, and 24-7 front-desk service with on-site case workers and mental health clinicians. With more than 70 veterans already moved in as of early 2015, 250 Kearny is set to provide housing to 130 veterans total, thanks to a joint effort between Swords to Plowshares, the City and County of San Francisco, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For our part, Swords to Plowshares is honored to run day-to-day operations and ensure these veterans are kept safe and secure with our wrap-around services. Since the 1980s, we’ve provided supportive housing to thousands of veterans and their families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Today, we operate four permanent supportive housing sites and three transitional housing programs, with the ability to house nearly 450 veterans on any given night. We continually expand supportive housing to meet the needs of veteran families, aging veterans and those with disabilities. Today many veteran occupants at 250 Kearny are reuniting with family, getting jobs or going back to school, and starting new lives. Ending veteran homelessness in San Francisco is not a pipe dream. It’s fast becoming a reality thanks to bold initiatives like 250 Kearny. Just ask Joe Jackson. The 20-year U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm battled divorce, alcoholism and homelessness before seeking help through our Transitional Housing Program on Treasure Island. Joe moved to 250 Kearny - now his permanent home - near the end of 2014 and enrolled in a nearby community college, where he plans to earn a degree in Business. “I see a lot of people in my shoes, and they move ahead but they fall back,” Joe says. “That’s not me. A lot of things had to fall into place to get me here, and they did. It’s serendipity. It’s good. It’s all good.” ENDING VETERAN HOMELESSNESS The End of Chronic Veteran Homelessness is in Sight Joe Jackson in his apartment at 250 Kearny Community dining room at 250 Kearny Exterior of 250 Kearny
  4. 4. 4
  5. 5. 5 Health Social Services Our Health and Social Services staff in our Frontline Drop-in Center provide critical care to help homeless and low-income veterans improve their health, wellness and long-term stability. For many of the veterans we serve, our Drop-in Center is the gateway to our continuum of care, the holistic model upon which our service delivery is based. Last year, we saw an average of 40 veterans daily with 88% enrolling in ongoing counseling and case management. Supportive Services for Veteran Families Our VA-funded Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program provides rapid re-housing assistance, eviction prevention and supportive services to increase veterans’ housing and financial stability. Last year, we helped nearly 900 veteran families in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties obtain or retain permanent housing with a housing retention rate of 98%. Supportive Housing Swords has operated successful and nationally renowned supportive housing programs for over 25 years. We continually expand and adapt our programs to meet the needs of chronically homeless and aging veterans with disabilities. Our housing efforts contributed to an astounding 20% reduction in veteran homelessness in San Francisco—from an estimated 919 homeless veterans in 2011 to 720 homeless veterans in 2014—a significant step toward ending veteran homelessness in San Francisco. The opening of 250 Kearny, our newest supportive housing program for 130 veterans, brought our housing capacity to 474 units in 2014; a 61% increase from 2013 and our largest capacity to date. Legal Services We are one of the few organizations in the country that provides specialized legal services free of charge to help veterans access the VA benefits and healthcare they have rightfully earned and need to rebuild their lives. A thriving Pro Bono Program comprised of 150 volunteer attorneys, the establishment of the Pro Bono Advisory Board, and the expansion of our Legal Clinics increased our ability to serve more veterans by 40% this year. Swords’ staff and pro bono attorneys helped 732 veterans in 2014 - the highest number of clients served by this program in our 40-year history. Employment Job Training Since 1974, we have been helped veterans from all walks of life overcome barriers to employment and transfer their skills learned through military service to a civilian job. We provide job placement assistance and vocational training opportunities to prepare veterans for high-wage, high- growth careers. In 2014, we further expanded services in the East Bay and opened a new Oakland Drop-in Center to better serve East Bay veterans and their families. Institute for Veteran Policy The Institute for Veteran Policy (IVP) works to improve the systems of care for veterans through community- informed advocacy and educates the community about the unique needs of veterans and their families. IVP’s cultural competency training, Combat to Community, has equipped thousands of professionals with the tools they need to address the unique challenges veterans face. Additionally, through the Women Veterans Program, we continually work to address the unique needs of women veterans through special programs and outreach. Launched in 2014, the Women Veterans Professional NetWork provided career development workshops and ongoing peer mentorship to 87 women; 50% found full- time employment within 4 months. 2014: A YEAR IN REVIEW Michael Blecker at April 22, 2015 Press Conference with VA Secretary and Mayor Lee. Spring 2014 Women Veterans Professional Network workshop participants.
  6. 6. 6 VETERANS LEGACY CIRCLE The Lasting Impact of Legacy Giving: A Vietnam Veteran Makes His Case Dear Supporters, Having served as a Marine Platoon Commander in Vietnam in the 1960s, I watched 11 of my young Marines and two Navy Corpsmen die. I witnessed the serious wounding of nearly every other Marine in my platoon during 14 terrible months and observed the destruction our country had wrought upon Vietnam. I determined that if I survived the war, I would “give back” in some way to those warriors and civilians who died and were so seriously injured, physically and mentally. I never got over my tour in Vietnam. For years I wondered why so many died. Even though I was wounded three times, I didn’t. Horrific memories haunted me. When I got home, I searched, hunted, and screamed for a “cause” that would justify America’s venture in Vietnam. I never found that cause. For 30 years I rarely spoke of the war that divided, still divides, our generation. I suppose I never would have addressed this hidden part of me if I hadn’t met Michael Blecker and his incredible staff and volunteers at Swords to Plowshares in the late 1990s. To them, it didn’t matter if you were for the war or against the war. All that mattered was advocacy for veterans to help them get off the streets, get the benefits their own government was denying them and to turn their lives around. When Dianne and I married in 1967, we jointly committed to fulfill the commitment I made when I left Vietnam. In 2011 and again in 2015, Dianne and I modified our Living Trust/Will such that a significant percentage of our estate will be donated to Swords to Plowshares and two other veterans’ organizations that we strongly believe in, after both of us pass away. Bequeathing a significant portion of our estate is a simple way for us to “give back” to those who were so important in our lives and who gave so much believing they were doing the right thing. Without Swords’ comprehensive services over the past 40 years, many more veterans would still be on the streets of San Francisco or at risk of becoming homeless. Though I never feel we’ve done enough, getting involved with Swords to Plowshares gave me the chance to give back, to do something more than just remember those sad days and feel sorry for myself and my dead and injured Marines and friends who never got the chance I did…to live the additional 45 to 50 years they were denied. Mem- ories of Vietnam still haunt me, but knowing that Dianne and I can give back a little, through a noble organization like Swords to Plowshares, that does so much for veterans, helps to assuage my guilt. If you are passionate about the mission of Swords to Plowshares, I invite you to explore the option of Planned Giving as well. Visit our Veterans Legacy Circle webpage at Sincerely, Jon Paulson For more than 20 years, Jon and Dianne Paulson have been dedicated supporters of Swords to Plowshares. Jon is a Vietnam veteran and serves on Swords to Plowshares’ Advisory Board. Jon and Dianne were awarded at the 2013 Annual Veterans Day Dinner with the Community Hero Award for their tireless dedication to Swords to Plowshares and the veterans they serve through fundraising, advocacy and volunteerism. Including Swords to Plowshares in their Living Will ensures that they can make a lasting difference and give back to future generations of veterans in need. Jon and Dianne Paulson at the 2014 Veterans Day Dinner.
  7. 7. 7 VETERANS LEGACY CIRCLE Join Swords to Plowshares’ Legacy Circle and make a lasting difference for future generations of our nation’s veterans. A couple of our most passionate supporters, Jon and Dianne Paulson have already pledged their support and are encouraging other friends of Swords to Plowshares to pledge their support and join the Veterans Legacy Circle. By joining Swords to Plowshares Veterans Legacy Circle and including Swords to Plowshares in your will or trust, you can leave your legacy and give back to veterans for decades to come. Your testamentary gift expresses your abiding commitment to healing the wounds of war. Please consult with your attorney or financial planner for details on planned giving or contact us to learn more about how to join Swords to Plowshares Veterans Legacy Circle. You can also access free resources, information and customized guides at You can find helpful information at, including: Customized Wills Planner: Create an account, customize your personal settings, manage your preferences and learn more with helpful planning guides. Planned Gift Calculators: Download and customize to see your personalized income and tax benefits. Custom calculators and presentations will walk you through: Free Resources for Advisors: We have a complete tax update service for CPAs, attorneys, CLUs, CFPs, ChFCs, trust officers and other professional friends. The GiftLaw services are made available to all advisors as a free service. Sign up for E-Newsletters: Our e-newsletter features current news from Washington, finance information, stories about others who have benefited from giving, calculators and more! Custom newsletters are available for donors and advisors. • Gifts of Stocks and Bonds: Donating appreciated securities, including stocks or bonds, is an easy and tax-effective way for you to make a gift to Swords to Plowshares. • Gifts of Real Estate: Donating appreciated real estate, such as a home, vacation property, undeveloped land, farmland, ranch or commercial property can make a great gift to Swords to Plowshares. • Gifts of Retirement Assets: Donating part or all of your unused retirement assets such as a gift from your IRA, 401(k), 403(b), pension or other tax-deferred plan is an excellent way to make a gift to Swords to Plowshares. • Gifts of Cash: A gift of cash is a simple and easy way for you to make a gift. • Gifts of Insurance: A gift of your life insurance policy is an excellent way to make a gift to Swords to Plowshares. If you have a life insurance policy that has outlasted its original purpose, consider making a gift of your insurance policy. For example, you may have purchased a policy to provide for minor children and they are now financially independent adults. Questions? Please contact Colleen Corliss Resource Development Communications Director or (415) 655.7248 LEARN ABOUT WAYS TO GIVE
  8. 8. 8 SARAH OLDRIDGE U.S. Air Force, 2003-2009 “I turned to Swords to Plowshares to ask for the one thing that most veterans are afraid to ask for—help.” Replicating the path of her siblings, Sarah joined the military at age 18 shortly after the sudden death of her father. Before she deployed to Iraq, her brother assured her that the base in Balad would be safe, but her first night in Iraq was met with ongoing mortar attacks. In 2009, she enlisted in the Reserves as a paralegal, a job she thought would protect her from redeployment and keep her close to her husband. However she was soon activated for another six months, delaying college and making her transition out of active duty more challenging. She found it difficult to prove her value to civilians without a degree or the experience they required. Frustrated and financially strained, Sarah came to Swords to Plowshares. Within months, her counselor found her a great opportunity at Allied Barton as a human resources coordinator. In her role at Allied Barton, she continued to work closely with our staff so that she could give back to other veterans struggling to find meaningful job opportunities. Sarah later went on to complete her bachelor’s degree and prepared for law school. DENNIS JOHNSON U.S. Army, 1989-1992 “Getting kicked out of the military was always something that I was truly ashamed of. It was hard for me to have to revisit those emotions of shame…but I did and I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I have a job today working with veterans like myself at Swords to Plowshares. My life has been never more exciting than it is today.” Dennis Johnson is a U.S. Army veteran who was given a less than honorable discharge from the military, known as ‘bad paper’ in 1991. He turned to drugs and alcohol, devolving to both an addict and alcoholic for many years before he hit bottom and decided to get sober. As a veteran with ‘bad paper,’ Dennis was embarrassed of his military status and doubted that he was entitled to any benefits or services through the VA or any service organization. When Dennis learned of Swords to Plowshares and made an appointment with our Employment Training staff, he hoped to find a job in which he could help other veterans overcome the challenges of addiction, poverty and homelessness. His job counselor immediately recognized his passion and motivation, and referred him to a part- time Program Monitor position at one of our transitional housing facilities. He was interviewed and hired immediately. Dennis impressed the residential operations management team so much that he was asked to take on a full-time position as Intake Clerk for our Frontline Drop- in Center. 40 Years of Service, 40 Stories of Success Over the years, Swords to Plowshares has helped countless veterans overcome adversity. As we enter our fifth decade of service to our nation’s veterans, we invite you to look back with us at a snapshot of the clients we’ve served over the years in our ‘40 Stories of Success’ that highlight our 40 years of service. This collection of 40 stories speak to the full range of services Swords to Plowshares offers to veterans and their families and the success of our integrated model of care.
  9. 9. 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS 9 DEL SEYMOUR U.S. Army, 1968-1970 “Thanks to the innovative and one-of-a-kind housing programs that Swords to Plowshares has been involved in this year, I can actually see an end to veteran homelessness in this city coming very soon. No other group of homeless folks in this city has received as much care and concern as veterans, and very soon the effort will need to shift to keeping these veterans housed.“ After serving as a medic during the Vietnam War, Del moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he continued to work as a paramedic. When he later moved to San Francisco, life took a turn for the worse into a spiral of homelessness and addiction until he received assistance from Swords to Plowshares. Now clean and sober for eight years, Del has since founded the Tenderloin Walking Tours, providing historical stories and insight into an often overlooked neighborhood. He also serves on the Local Homeless Coordinating Board and Swords to Plowshares’ Board of Directors. LAYMER PAMINTUAN U.S. Army, 2010-2014 U.S. Army Reserves, 2014-present “With the help of Swords to Plowshares, I have been able to transition to civilian life much more smoothly than expected. The constant support of the organization led me to the comfortable position I am in now.” After joining the U.S. Army in 2010, Laymer was deployed to the Kunar Province in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013. He was honorably discharged the following year and received multiple awards for his service. Laymer sought out the services of our Employment Training Department while looking for work. The employment counselor working with him at Swords recognized his strong organizational and leadership skills, and his passion for helping fellow veterans. Laymer was brought onboard as our Office Manager, and is also a full-time student working on his bachelor’s degree in Technical Management in Small Business and Entrepreneurship. A resident of Daly City, he continues to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves. DAVID FISH U.S. Army 1984-1991 “A lot of soldiers don’t become veterans until they’ve failed at being civilians, even though they’ve been vets all along. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t spend your life trying to forget the unforgettable. Without Swords’ attorney Katie Dwight, I’m not sure that I would be standing here. She assisted me through the arduous process of VA claims and compensation and pension—an area that no veteran can hope to navigate without legal support. After three years I was able to establish financial security again for my sons and myself.” David served in the U.S. Army as a medic and paratrooper, including a deployment to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. When he returned to his native California, he found himself battling PTSD and major depression. Though he married, bought a home, and went to work as a licensed nurse, his symptoms worsened and remained untreated. Seventeen years after his discharge, he lost everything and became homelessness. He felt disillusioned, disoriented and empty. When David finally came to Swords to Plowshares for help, divorced and penniless, our legal team made sure that David received the treatment he needed from the VA as well as the benefits owed for his service as a combat veteran. David says, “seeking help from the VA had sparked a creative fire within me, but suddenly found I had a desire to create meaningful art.” He now finds healing through art and works with a number of artistic veteran groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has been performed in solo projects and modern dance projects, some of which were made possible by grants obtained by Swords. David now lives in the Sunset district of San Francisco with two children, Simon and Dylan, aged 20 and 18.
  10. 10. 10 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS RYAN SCHMIDT U.S. Marine Corps, 2003-2008 “In the Marine Corps, you never have to watch your back because you know that your brother has it covered. The men and women at Swords to Plowshares believe in you and pledge that they will have your back. I’m not sure where I would be with them.” Ryan Schmidt served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a rifleman from 2003 to 2008. While deployed to Iraq, he was awarded a Purple Heart, Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and a handful of other decorations. He came home in 2008 to find the country in a recession. Jobs were so scarce in Northern California that Ryan ended up taking a job on an oil rig in Kansas for 18 months. By the time he saved enough money to return to the Bay Area, he managed to survive all of three months in San Francisco before being forced to move out to San Leandro. If it wasn’t for our Supportive Services for Veteran Families program (SSVF), which provided him with eviction prevention assistance when he got behind in his rent, Ryan and his family could have ended up at homeless. Eventually he landed a job at the San Francisco VA Hospital as an engineer thanks to our Employment and Training Program. Ryan lives in San Leandro with his wife, Marilyn, and their two children. DIANE WILLIAMSON U.S. Army, 1976-1979 “A lot of people don’t get a chance to stop and re-evaluate their lives. I got that chance to hit bottom, get up, ask how I got there, and what I could do to help myself. Swords to Plowshares gave me that opportunity. I know that I’m not the same person I was that first day I heard about Swords. I’ve learned so much since then.” While serving in the Army, Diane Williamson was sexually assaulted by her commanding officer and soon after began suffering from symptoms of PTSD brought on by military sexual trauma (MST). Despite the violence she survived, she continued serving until she became pregnant, forcing her to make the difficult decision to end her military career early. Using the GI Bill to earn an associate’s degree in graphic design, Diane worked for the Navy in Oakland until the facility closed in 1997. However in the years following, she experienced ongoing symptoms of PTSD, depression, gaps in employment, and eventually lost her apartment. Diane was living at a shelter when a resident told her about Swords to Plowshares. After moving to our Transitional Housing Program on Treasure Island, she was able to work through her PTSD by volunteering and undergoing mental health treatment and subsequently moving into the Veterans Academy, where she made her home for 11 years while pursuing her education and reconnecting with family. In 2011, Diane settled into her own apartment with her daughter in East Bay. DOTTIE GUY U.S. Army, 2000-2007 “Not only does Swords to Plowshares provide help for our veterans in need, it also provides a community of people who understand what it means to serve.” Dottie joined the Army National Guard after high school in 2000 as a means of building community and new opportunities after relocating away from her hometown. Following the 9/11 attacks, she was activated just hours after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, and eventually she deployed to Iraq in 2003. Years later, Dottie was referred to Swords to Plowshares by a peer who encouraged her to seek help with her disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her attorney worked with her to access the VA benefits she earned and address her service-connected injuries. Dottie landed a job as the Outreach Coordinator for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans at the Oakland Vet Center, and she serves on the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commission.
  11. 11. 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS 11 STAR LARA U.S. Army, 1995-2007 “I believed that the transition to my career after earning my degree would be seamless. I expected employers to be knocking down my door offering me the highly sought after management positions. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that veterans have to work even harder to translate their soft skills and transferable skills before I could sell myself and my resume. Thanks to Swords, I landed a very rewarding position that has allowed me to utilize all the skills I learned during my twelve years in the Army.” During her service, Star she achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant and was assigned to multiple duty stations as well as deployments that included Bosnia during Operation Joint Forge and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was awarded the Combat Action Badge and two Meritorious Service Medals for her service. After her discharge, she also earned a BA in Business Management but still she struggled to find a job. Star reached out to the Employment and Training Department at Swords to Plowshares. She was hired as our Women Veterans Program Manager, and went on to be named the 2014 California Women Veteran Leader of Year by the California Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as Veteran of the Year by the California State Senate. TONY BONINI U.S. Marine Corps, 1994-1998 U.S. Army Reserves, 1998-2004 “I never thought I was going to make it…” After 10 years of service split between the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army Reserves, Tony was dismissed after failing a drug test. His drug habit soon worsened and he lost his marriage, his apartment and eventually all contact with his family. He lived out of his car and survived on petty theft. When he heard about Swords to Plowshares from a fellow veteran, Tony managed to stay sober for a week and then entered our Transitional Housing Program. He attended classes and began to make better decisions. Once stable and sober, Tony reconnected with his two daughters—something he considers his greatest accomplishment. JOHN PAGE U.S. Air Force, 1970-1975 “Swords to Plowshares helped me out so much. I tell every veteran I know to give them a call. I’ve got the number memorized. 415-252-4788.” Having developed hypertension while serving during the Vietnam War, John struggled to settle into civilian life after the war with his wife and baby boy in California. A former commander tried to get John a position in air traffic control where he could apply the skills he learned while serving in the Air Force, but health issues kept him from getting the job. Devastated, John began self-medicating to the point that his drug use tore apart his family and led to bouts of homelessness. Eventually he suffered a stroke that resulted in partial paralysis, loss of motor skills, blindness, and permanent damage to his short-term memory and ability to comprehend speech. In 2002, friends encouraged him to go to Swords to Plowshares for help. He worked with one of our staff attorneys who secured him the service-connected disability benefits he earned and needed to survive. Once he was stable, John reunited with his family and now dedicates his spare time to working with troubled youth. CAUDREY PARKER U.S. Navy, 1989-2010 “Swords to Plowshares had something behind its billboard.” In 2010, after returning home from a difficult deployment to Afghanistan, Caudrey had a tough time finding employment. Despite her skills and experience, she struggled to find a job and relied on friends for shelter. She eventually reached out to Swords to Plowshares, which laid the groundwork for her to enter a training program that earned her a Building Performance Analyst Certificate. Swords also assisted Caudrey with her job search, eventually leading to a position as a shift supervisor in Cupertino, CA.
  12. 12. 12 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS MARCO CONCEPCION U.S. Marine Corps, 2006-2010 “Before my deployment to Iraq, I felt like your average proud Marine, but when I got back I was a different person. I ignored what was really going on with me and turned to drugs and alcohol. Once I faced the truth, I decided to get help. I felt great knowing that I finally found something I am good at—being a hardworking tradesman. I’m confident now.” ALAN NUDO U.S. Marine Corps, 2008-2012 “Between my first and second deployment, I didn’t know what to do. I drank heavily to cope, and for months was not motivated even to look for work. I eventually enrolled in a for-profit school and quickly started racking up serious student loan debt. My best friend, Marco [Concepcion], signed me up for a training course at Swords to Plowshares to become an apprentice carpenter. At first I was skeptical, but now I feel lucky that my new job will give me stability, great income and the training I need for the future.” Marco and Alan, both young veterans who served together in Iraq, sought help at Swords to Plowshares despite their reservations to reach out for assistance. The two friends, who supported each other through difficult times in Iraq, reunited after military service to support each other through the difficulties they were facing in the civilian world. Their career counselor at Swords helped them enroll in a competitive carpentry apprenticeship program. Both Alan and Marco successfully completed pre-apprenticeship training and developed their skills on the job working with master carpenters. KELLY CHENOT U.S. Army, 1996-1998 “Swords to Plowshares’ permanent housing for me and my son made a world of difference for his and my healing. We can move on to deal with more in our lives … It’s all about living now, not just surviving.” Kelly faced the “scariest time” of her life in 2006 when, expecting a child while on the road to recovery, she found herself without housing and in need of service. Swords to Plowshares not only provided stable permanent housing for Kelly and her son, but also helped create family experiences and memories with veteran access to events and attractions that otherwise would not have been available to them. DUSTIN MOONEY U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, 2008-2014 “I finished my bachelor’s degree in winter 2014 and began my search for a career where I could achieve the necessary social work experience needed to apply for a Master of Social Work program. I sought out the help of the employment services at Swords to Plowshares. I immediately became inspired with the non-profit itself. Their selfless dedication to helping military veterans and their families fell right in line with the values I held. With the help of my employment specialist, I was able to not only start a career where I could gain social work experience, but it was also with the same organization that was helping me do so, Swords to Plowshares. They were essential in preparing me for this opportunity and I am extremely thankful.” Dustin served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves for six years, during which he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. It was always his goal to attend and graduate from college after his service. Dustin utilized the GI Bill, and through hard work and determination was able to attend UC Berkeley, where he studied Psychology and Social Welfare. During his studies, Dustin discovered a passion for serving those less fortunate than himself. Keeping in tune with his love for the military, he decided to become a social worker helping military veterans. Swords to Plowshares hired him to work in our Supportive Services for Veteran Families program in Oakland, helping veterans and their families find stable housing.
  13. 13. 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS 13 RANDALL FLAGG U.S. Army, 1983-1986 “I had nowhere to go. Swords to Plowshares gave me a key to my own room and I never looked back. They helped me to the point that in nine months I got a job, transitioned out of their Transitional Housing Program on my own in order to do everything I needed for me and my family. That was nineteen years ago. I’m gratefully indebted to Swords, because that’s where everything changed. That’s straight from me, from the heart. Now I work at Swords and we’re going to do great things.” In 1995, Randall Flagg turned to Swords to Plowshares for help. He was emaciated, weak and in need of medical assistance—a veteran in just about the worst shape that our staff had ever seen during an intake. Fortunately we were able to help Randall access the urgent care he needed. Upon his release from the hospital, Randall entered our Transitional Housing Program. Through hard work and dedication, Randall turned his life around and re-united with his family. He currently works for Swords to Plowshares as one of our outreach coordinators, helping veterans regain their dignity, hope and self-sufficiency. JOSH AGUILAR U.S. Army, 2000-2011 “Adjusting to who I was and who I am now is the hardest part of looking back to when I decided to join the military.” Josh Aguilar joined the U.S. Army in 2000 and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327 Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, where he served three deployments to Iraq over the course of 11 years. The missions were rigorous, as Josh’s unit engaged in day-to-day combat and many lives were lost. Throughout the years the effects of war became an unstoppable force, both during and after. During his tours, Josh witnessed and suffered tremendous loss, and more than ever, felt the weight of his experiences. After being medically retired due to combat-related injuries, Josh moved to California to begin a new life as a civilian. Luckily, he had close ties to fellow veterans who worked at Swords to Plowshares, and they were able to help him link with one of our staff attorneys who helped him secure his VA disability compensation and pension, as well as to enroll in school and find employment. His PTSD continues to be a struggle, but Josh remains connected to the veteran community which helps him continue to improve his health, stability and employment opportunities. HOBART LEE U.S. Marine Corps, 1978-1982 “I respect the veterans who were in the Transitional Housing Program with me because of what they do to change their lives. The best thing about Swords’ program is that it was an opportunity to work on myself.” Hobart served two tours with the Marine Corps just after the Vietnam War, coinciding with the evacuation of U.S. troops from 1978 to 1982. Upon returning home, he tried out for the NFL and played two years with the L.A. Express as well as another year with the L.A. Rams. A shattered shoulder ended his football career in 1985, and he moved to San Francisco to look for a job though he had little experience outside of the military and the football field. Long-time unemployment eventually led to drug dependency and homelessness, and from 1989 to 1994 he wandered the Tenderloin and Lower Market area, eventually serving time in prison on drug charges. On his release, Hobart enrolled in Swords to Plowshares’ Transitional Housing Program, graduated in 2010 and established a home of his own. He later went back to school to pursue a degree in counseling, volunteers with at-risk youth, and began working at the VA to give back to his fellow veterans.
  14. 14. 14 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS GEOFF BYRD U.S. Air Force, 2001-2005 “Swords has helped guide me to aid and empower myself to make changes in my life. At their Transitional Housing Program you learn a whole new lifestyle.” Geoff served from 2001 to 2005, flying with the U.S. Air Force over Iraq and much of the Middle East. After returning stateside, he found that he had trouble sleeping, was easily startled, and often overcome by memories of attacks that he experienced overseas. Unaware these were symptoms of PTSD and having underestimated the transition to civilian life, Geoff turned to alcohol rather than treatment. By the time he heard about Swords to Plowshares, he was in need of both counseling and transitional housing. He benefited from the structure and stability of the program and successfully graduated with plans to pursue college. RAYMOND HOUSTON U.S. Navy, 2005-2009 “Swords was amazing when I needed the most help. When I met with my employment counselor, he made a phone call to one of his contacts at a security company and immediately set up an interview for me. I went straight from his office to the company and was hired on the spot. The people who helped me at Swords were vets, so they know how it is. I could really relate to them a lot more than anybody else who was trying to help.” Ray Houston, served in the U.S. Navy from 2005 to 2009, including tours in Iraq. Soon after finishing his service, Ray secured a job in the San Francisco Bay Area. He set out to leave Norfolk, Virginia to relocate with his expecting wife and daughter to pursue a new career. Unfortunately on the trip out, Ray and his family were robbed of all their possessions to the point they didn’t even have toys for their daughter. Soon after, he found out the job he had lined up was no longer available. Even his backup plan to apply at the local police force was put on hold because of to a hiring freeze, so Ray found himself starting from scratch. The Employment Development Department referred Ray to Swords to Plowshares, where he met with an employment counselor at our Oakland office. Together they mapped out a plan for Ray’s future career goals. After landing a job at a security company, Ray was promoted after only a few months. Also, with the help of Swords’ staff, Ray enrolled in school to pursue an engineering degree and secured donations to replace their stolen belongings. WILLIAM BOEHM U.S. Navy, 1967-1971 “When you go from the military to civilian life, it’s like two different worlds. A lot of veterans end up on the streets. After the Vietnam War I ignored my PTSD for decades until my life crumbled around me. I never thought I would become homeless, but I spent three years wandering the desert.” After the Vietnam War, Bill returned home to San Francisco and tried to get help at the VA, but PTSD wasn’t recognized at the time and there were no services to help him. He went on to get married, start a family and open a business that thrived for more than two decades. The symptoms of his PTSD went untreated however, and his family life began to unravel. He eventually sold his business and was homeless for years, wandering the country before seeking help in 2010. Bill was referred to Swords to Plowshares and received both supportive housing and mental health counseling, all the while battling colon cancer. Bill made his home at Swords to Plowshares’ Veterans Academy for three years, where he facilitated peer counseling groups and was an active member of the community. He subsequently moved on to an apartment of his own in Pacifica and now dedicates much of his time supporting fellow veterans through a peer-based counseling model called “Vet-to-Vet”.
  15. 15. 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS 15 EDDY WEDERTZHOW, SR. U.S. Army, 1972-1974 “I know the pain of hitting bottom and now the joy of coming back out on top…” Eddy returned home from military service to his wife and two young children, and managed to keep a steady job for the next 14 years. Haunting memories from his time in service still lingered, as did bad habits, and he began to take sick days and lose focus at work. His drug and alcohol dependency led to divorce. When Eddy sought help at the VA, they pointed him to Swords to Plowshares, where counseling helped him beat his addiction. He got involved in volunteer activities and even helped open a youth gym on Treasure Island. Time spent at our Computer Learning Center rounded out his skill set, leading to employment at a property management company. A year later, Eddy became one of our housing program managers. He enjoyed mentoring veterans and serving as a mentor to other veterans so they too could regain control of their lives. DAN RARIDON U.S. Marine Corps, 1981-1985 “I really appreciate the Treasure Island Transitional Housing Program because it has given me a future. We get here and it’s like a big ol’ loving family. It is the best program I have ever been in.” Dan sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from his time in service but still managed to hold a job as a plumber for 18 years to support his wife and two children. Though Dan was already abusing alcohol by the time he left the military, it worsened when he returned to civilian life and he could never last longer than 30 days sober. When friends told him about Swords to Plowshares, Dan was struck by the extent to which our staff cares for clients and helps them to work through issues. Our Transitional Housing Program helped Dan finally maintain sobriety and get his life back on track. He credits his success to our “vet-to-vet support network.” TANGERINE GYI U.S. Army, 1999-2007 “The women veterans I’ve met in the community and finding outlets for my artistic expression have helped me put back together the incomplete, dismembered and shattered parts of my life.” Tangerine Gyi has lived in San Francisco since she was a teenager. After joining the California Army National Guard in 1999, she was activated in the wake of 9/11 to guard the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq for 18 months, and again in 2006 to San Diego in support of homeland security-border patrols. After her military service, she enrolled at City College of San Francisco to study anthropology. School provided a means to become more connected with the veteran community and Tangerine soon learned about Swords to Plowshares through her veteran peers. A budding artist, she became involved with our Women Veterans Program through its annual art show, SHOUT! For Women Veterans. In addition, our Women Veterans Program Manager helped Tangerine link with the services and support she needs to address her health, employment and overall wellness. VICTOR FLEMING U.S. Army, 1977-1979 “I self-medicated for thirty years. Now I live at Veterans Commons and it is more than my home—it’s a community here. Being able to move in was a miracle that’s given my life new meaning. The people working here will help you with anything. If you’re a vet and you need help, we have a staff here to go to who are problem solvers.” During a period of homelessness that lasted more than five years, Victor at one point suffered a 62- day coma. He continued to jump from shelter to shelter until he was referred to Swords to Plowshares. Swords secured an apartment for Victor at Veterans Commons, one of Swords’ permanent supportive housing sites. Victor moved in on November 21, 2012, a date that coincided with the one-year anniversary of his father’s death. For the first time in years, he was not ashamed to show his 18-year-old son his home—in fact he is very proud of where he now lives.
  16. 16. 16 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS ALEXANDRA CRICHLOW U.S. Air Force, 1981-1983 “Thankfully, with support from my counselor at Swords to Plowshares, I reclaimed my life. My daughter and I left our darkest days behind.” While working on her bachelor’s degree in engineering, Alex was recruited by the U.S. Air Force. She was the only woman assigned to a unit comprised of 26 men and faced constant harassment and sexual assaults during her time in service. Her pleas for protection and transfer requests were continually denied and eventually she became pregnant. For more than 20 years after leaving the military, she suffered from PTSD brought on by military sexual trauma, in addition to long bouts of isolation due to severe agoraphobia. For many years, she relied on support from our counselors at Swords to Plowshares who coordinated mental healthcare and supportive services for her and her daughter. Swords’ staff helped her and her daughter to remain stably housed and gave the ongoing encouragement and support she needed to continue addressing her mental health issues. SAMUEL BIBBENS U.S. Army, 1960-1963 “I’m comfortable with my life now. In fact, I’m enjoying my life more today than any years before.” Sam first came to Swords to Plowshares after a series of battles with drugs and alcohol that caused him to lose his job. At Swords, he found help working with our staff in Employment and Training as well as counselors in our Frontline Drop- in Center. Years later, Sam decided to move back to his home state of Louisiana and make a new life for himself in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina, however, created a new set of obstacles and he found himself homeless. Three years after the hurricane, Sam returned to San Francisco and applied to live at our Veterans Academy, a permanent supportive housing facility in the Presidio. In October of 2008, the Veterans Academy became his permanent home. He has improved his life by furthering his education, staying clean and sober, and playing an active role within his community. ERICK VARELA U.S. Army, 2002-2010 “A lot of people don’t realize that being in the military is a lifestyle, not just a job.” During his two tours of duty, Erick was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. When he came home in 2007, he struggled to acclimate to the civilian world, compounded by a suffering economy and the immediate need for employment to support his family. Erick learned about the PGE Power Pathways Program, where he could gain skills to pursue a career in green technologies. After hearing that Swords to Plowshares had teamed up with PGE to offer the training program at no cost to recently separated veterans, Erick quickly signed up. He excelled in the program and was not only offered a job upon completion, but was quickly promoted. He looks forward to the future opportunities it may bring. ROB KANE U.S. Army, 1990-1992 “Swords to Plowshares aims to heal veterans and give them every opportunity to redeem themselves with dignity. Swords gave me a helping hand when I needed it and helped me to overcome a rough patch in my life. It is an honor to work for such an organization.” A U.S. Army veteran who served in Germany, Rob found out about Swords and their services through the COVER veterans’ reintegration program as a way to complete community service. Rob’s technology skills were uncovered during his volunteer service and he was offered a full-time position with Swords. With a BA in Political Economy from UC Berkeley, Rob uses his IT experience to manage our website and other Internet services to improve communications and outreach initiatives and has completed his master’s degree in Project and Systems Management at Golden Gate University.
  17. 17. 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS 17 VICKI HUDSON U.S. Army Army Reserves, 1979-2012 “My life would have taken a very different turn, if not for the aid and support of community agencies like Swords to Plowshares. Instead of moving forward, I likely would have succumbed to depression and isolation.” During her 33 years of service, Vicki Hudson served in the Persian Gulf War of 1990- 91 and deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996. She continued to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves despite battling with symptoms of PTSD, and while also working jobs in security and food service. In 2000, unable to find affordable housing, she was forced to live in her truck with her two dogs for months on end, volunteering at a food bank in return for bags of groceries. Swords to Plowshares found her an apartment and provided the deposits she needed to move in to her new home. Without assistance, Vicki would not have been able to keep her dogs, who were integral to her PTSD stability. Following the 9/11 attacks, she was recalled to active duty for three tours where she commanded three separate battalions. A writer with an MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California, Vicki now lives with her spouse and children in Hayward, where they own a home. HELO HALO U.S. Marine Corps, 1981-1985 “It’s all about vets helping vets. If another vet can hear my story and understand the advantages of going through Swords to Plowshares, that’s all the payoff I need.” Helo was working as a dishwasher in Gualala, California, when he hit bottom as a result of his drinking. His boss tried to help, but when he continued to drink, there was no choice but to fire him. Helo spent the next few months homeless, until in August of 2006 his friends decided it was time for an intervention. They enrolled him in the VA healthcare system, forcing him into a van and driving him there to be admitted to the VA Substance Abuse Day Hospital. The staff there referred Helo to Swords to Plowshares, and he was quickly admitted to our Transitional Housing Program on Treasure Island, which he credits with saving his life. After graduating to permanent housing at our Veterans Academy in the Presidio, Helo enrolled at San Francisco City College and became a Nursing Assistant at North and South of Market Adult Day Care. He plans to become a Registered Nurse and continues to be an advocate in the veteran community. JONATHON LEE U.S. Army, 2001-2005 “Being out in the world—it’s different. Other vets understand what I’m going through. In Swords to Plowshares’ program, I finally felt like I could take care of, and deal with things.” After 9/11, Jonathon decided to answer the call of duty even though he was already in his 30s. Before his deployment, his drill instructor said, “Some of you are going to Iraq, some of you to Afghanistan, and some of you are going to die.” Each time he had a near brush with death, he felt lucky to not be counted in the third category. Shortly after returning home from Iraq, his luck took a turn for the worse and he found himself dealing with the psychological wounds of war. Jonathon spent more than three years homeless in Northern California before seeking help through Swords to Plowshares’ Transitional Housing Program. The program allowed him to live in supportive housing for over a year and receive the treatment he needed to cope with his PTSD. Jonathon completed the program in 2010 and moved to an apartment in Oakland. Thanks to the GI Bill, he was able to pursue a degree in criminal justice.
  18. 18. 18 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS KEVIN MILLER U.S. Marine Corps, 2002-2006 “Swords to Plowshares truly understands veterans and how to support them through their continuum of care and model of ‘vets-helping-vets’ They provided me not only with the support I needed, but also gave me the opportunity to give back and advocate for my fellow veterans.” Kevin joined the U.S. Marine Corps infantry just out of high school and served three combat tours in the Middle East. Transitioning from the Marine Corps in 2006 to the civilian world was far from easy. Even after earning a college degree, Kevin struggled to find meaningful employment and endured a form of homelessness politely known as “couch-surfing.” Swords to Plowshares brought him on as their AmeriCorps VISTA, landed him in his first permanent residence in over two years under the SSVF program, and provided legal assistance in his disability claim with the VA. After serving a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, Kevin was brought on full-time at Swords, where he uses his experience to advocate for the best opportunities and resources for veterans as the Strategic Development and Communications Coordinator. BRIAN JARVIS U.S. Air National Guard, 2012-present “After months of watching my savings disappear, I was one rent check away from having to leave the Bay Area with my head in the sand and trudge back to the Midwest to crash on my mother’s couch. It was that close. Here I had a master’s degree and still couldn’t get my foot in the door. Swords didn’t just find me a job. They gave me a job that was tailor-made for me. For that I’ll always be grateful.” Brian joined the California Air National Guard in 2012 at the age of 35. After finishing his active duty training, however, he found himself back in the San Francisco Bay Area in desperate need of a full-time job. His pay with the Guard was less than $200 per month—barely enough to cover groceries, much less rent. Hiring managers were leery of his part-time military status. After six months of unemployment and no interviews, Brian was ready to quit California altogether when a colleague recommended Swords to Plowshares. Within a month, Brian was hired as their full-time Communications Associate, a job he loves. He continues to train on weekends with the 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field in Mountain View, where he serves as a Public Affairs Specialist. WENDY BARNETT U.S. Army Reserves, 1979-1985 “Swords is a Godsend, my saving grace. They treat you like a whole person, taking in everything and digging in deeper to find the real situation in order to help. They don’t just focus on your military service, but also what has happened in your life since then. They help you along the way, and have helped me every time I needed it.” Until Swords to Plowshares opened family housing in February 2012, Wendy and her 14-year-old son were homeless. As a single mother, she struggled for more than two years to find work and affordable housing. Once we learned about Wendy’s hardships, through a social worker at the VA, our Women Veterans Program Manager called to inform her of an opening at our new permanent family housing and how to apply. Within two weeks, Wendy’s life changed as she and her son moved in to a freshly renovated two-bedroom apartment. With the stability and support she needed, Wendy landed a job at the VA Hospital where she can give back to fellow veterans.
  19. 19. 40 YEARS OF SERVICE, 40 STORIES OF SUCCESS 19 JOHN WOOD U.S. Army, 1969-1972 “I knew I had a problem with PTSD. I fought long and hard to get effective treatment from the VA, and I was told to suck it up and be a man. It took me from 1972 until 2006 for the VA to admit that I had PTSD. Swords to Plowshares bent over backwards to help me when all the others would not, providing me with free attorney representation.” A Vietnam combat veteran, John suffered from PTSD for 37 years without finding proper treatment or help. In 2012, he was living in a tent in the woods and feeling cut off from the rest of the world. When a friend told him about Swords to Plowshares, John decided to finally seek help. He worked with one of our attorneys who determined his eligibility for VA benefits and fought for him to receive a fair disability rating. We were able to get John medical care at a VA hospital as well as disability benefits to compensate for decades of suffering. John has been able to cope with his PTSD thanks to the help of his psychiatrist. JOSE CASTRO U.S. Marine Corps, 2001-2005 “After coming home I thought I was okay, but I would snap sometimes. I knew I couldn’t keep living the way I was. So I went to Swords to Plowshares. They were awesome and gave me the encouragement I needed. I felt like I had someone on my team.” Jose joined the Marine Corps after 9/11 to “fight for and protect his country.” He deployed to Iraq in 2003 but soon began having difficulty sleeping, controlling his anger and connecting with his friends. The nightmares worsened when he came home. People told him that he wasn’t the same, and it was true—he was struggling with PTSD and wasn’t getting the help he needed. After connecting with Swords, Jose was able to work with our legal department to gain access to treatment and disability benefits. Seven years after his discharge, he finally qualified for his VA benefits and healthcare. Jose went back to school and worked with our employment team, who provided him with encouragement, career options and a plan for the future. MARY RIVERA U.S. Navy, 1979-1988 “We put our lives on the line for our country and we love our country. The staff at Swords to Plowshares was there when everybody else turned their backs. When I was in Swords’ housing program, they told me that I don’t have to worry anymore—you are home now.” After serving eight years in the U.S. Navy, Mary struggled through periods of homelessness, alcoholism and mental illness. In 2008, she had a breakdown and needed help. She learned about Swords to Plowshares through the VA hospital and moved to our Transitional Housing Program on Treasure Island, where she bonded with fellow veterans, obtained counseling and was able to heal. After graduating from the program, Mary reconnected with her family and friends. SEAN MCKEEN U.S. Army, 2005–2009 “Swords to Plowshares helped me pay for classes in motorcycle repair so that I could have a job that I actually love. I just want to be a regular guy who can take care of my kids and ride motorcycles.” Sean McKeen joined the U.S. Army at 17, eager to embrace something new in life other than the rural one he knew growing up in Montana and Washington State. He spent 15 months in Iraq as a combat engineer, specializing in explosives and urban tactics, a job that was often harrowing. The life he returned to after service was a difficult one, and battling PTSD made it even more difficult to stay on track and out of trouble. Sean found himself living at a homeless shelter that was often “out of control.” At the shelter, Sean met a resident who told him about Swords to Plowshares, and his first appointment coincided with our first Job Fair. Sean learned about opportunities for both employment and housing, and soon he moved to our Transitional Housing Program on Treasure Island. From there he enrolled in classes and began working with our counselors on his PTSD, as well as our staff attorneys to file a benefits claim.
  20. 20. 20 1985-1995: America is Awakened to the Hardships of Vietnam Veterans The American public began discussing the Vietnam War and made concerted efforts to understand the struggles veterans faced during combat and coming home. Also, during this time public funding allowed community-based organizations to provide housing to homeless veterans. Programs for homeless veterans began to build momentum and support with the help of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. OUR HISTORY AT A GLANCE 1974 - 1984: The Decade of Neglect The public did not want to be reminded of the Vietnam War and could not separate their negative feelings about the war from the warrior. Vietnam veterans were not only rejected by the public, but also by groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the Department of Veterans Affairs. This was a time when policy affecting veterans was controlled by these agencies which blatantly neglected Vietnam veterans and depicted them as villains. • 1974: Swords is established by six Vietnam veterans concerned with the unmet needs of their peers within the community and VA • 1976: Swords develops tailored services for military discharge upgrades, working with incarcerated veterans and providing employment, training and educational assistance • 1978: Swords becomes the first organization in 32 years certified by the VA to represent veterans seeking benefits • 1979: Swords wins one of the first PTSD cases in the country • 1980: Community-based organizations serving veterans begin to rise up all over the country to help Vietnam veterans • 1980: PTSD is finally recognized. Prior to this time it was called “Post-Vietnam Syndrome” • 1983: The Vietnam Wall is built in DC, giving overdue recognition to the Vietnam vets • 1980s: Michael Blecker, Swords’ Executive Director is asked to serve on the Agent Orange Advisory Board • 1984: Swords’ attorneys helped develop the Agent Orange Self-Help Guide and served on the National Agent Orange Settlement Advisory Board • 1985: 10 years after the end of the Vietnam War, “Welcome Home” parades began springing up to honor veterans • 1986: Swords establishes the Health and Social Services department thanks to public funding made available to community-based organizations • 1988: Swords begins its first transitional housing program and purchases a housing site to operate the program in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco • 1990: Michael Blecker and other advocates founded the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) • 1990s: The establishment of NCHV’s advocacy led to a broad understanding of the growing population of homeless veterans and prompted the VA to begin contracting with community-based organizations to offer transitional housing programs and emergency housing • 1992: Swords opens DeMontfort Street Transitional Housing Program for chronically homeless and mentally ill veterans • 1990s: Stand Downs begin happening throughout California, enabling groups like Swords to reach out the homeless veteran population and provide services on location Michael Blecker and Vietnam veteran advocates at one of the first “Welcome Home” parades for Vietnam veterans in Chicago Swords to Plowshares Drop-in Center located in the 1980s at 400 Valencia Street
  21. 21. 21 OUR HISTORY AT A GLANCE • 2008: Swords develops Combat to Community, our cultural competency training program for police, clinicians, employers, and service providers • 2009: Swords expands Employment and Training services in the East Bay and SF War Memorial building • 2009: Swords establishes the Women Veterans Program • 2010: Swords launches its Veterans Pro Bono Program • 2012: Swords opens permanent supportive housing for veteran families on Treasure Island • 2012: Swords opens 75 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans with disabilities, Veterans Commons, at the historical site located at 150 Otis Street in San Francisco • 2013: Swords expands in the East Bay to offer housing assistance services to veterans and veteran families • 2014: Swords begins operating a Safe Haven stabilization housing program for the “hardest-to-serve” veterans at the Fairfax Hotel • 2014: Swords begins operating 250 Kearny Street, a permanent supportive housing program for 130 chronically homeless veterans with disabilities • December 24, 2014: Swords to Plowshares officially turns 40 years old! • 2015: Swords opens a new Drop-in Center in Oakland to expand services to East Bay veterans and their families • 1995: Swords and four California organizations founded the California Association of Veteran Service Agencies to improve services for California’s veterans and educate our communities • 1996: The Gulf War Self-Help Guide is established by veteran advocates, including Swords’ staff attorneys • 1996: Michael Blecker is appointed to the Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance • 1997: Veteran advocates expose military records that prove the military’s knowledge of the harmful effects of depleted uranium • 2000: Swords opens our first permanent supportive housing site, the Veterans Academy in the Presidio National Park for over 100 homeless veterans with disabilities • 2000: Swords opens our Treasure Island Transitional Housing Program – moving away from blighted areas of the city - for 60 veterans with disabilities and mental health needs • 2001: Swords’ Frontline Drop-in Center receives Center for Mental Health Services Homeless Programs Branch Exemplary Program Award • 2002: Governor’s report names Swords as one of the best state programs serving the homeless • 2002: Michael Blecker was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans 1995-2005: Veteran Service Organizations Began Maturing and Gaining Recognition Prior to the 1980s the VFW and American Legion were the only veteran service organizations with any clout. The movement of homeless veteran advocates, the availability of public funding and the new generation of Gulf War veterans created inroads for groups like Swords to Plowshares. 2005-Present: Lessons Learned and Preventative Care for OIF/OEF Veterans Several years after September 11th, services for veterans and their families began expanding all over the country to respond to the needs of Post-9/11 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, we as a nation began reflecting upon the mistakes we made when Vietnam veterans returned from war and implementing policies based on our lessons learned. Today, Swords to Plowshares continually works to improve our programs and services help veterans make a successful transition from combat to our communities. Reverend Norman Fong, Mayor Edwin Lee, Leader Nancy Pelosi, Michael Blecker The Veterans Academy located in the Presidio National Park in San Francisco • 2003: Swords begins to recognize the specific needs of veterans returning from the Iraq War and identifying opportunities for growth • 2005: Swords establishes the Institute for Veteran Policy (IVP) to meet the needs of Post-9/11 veterans and improve the systems of care for all veterans • 2006: IVP staff members begin conducting focus groups in California to identify gaps in services for military veterans and families
  22. 22. 22 The Impact of the Veterans Pro Bono Program Each year, our staff attorneys help hundreds of veterans access the benefits they rightfully earned with their service. However, with thousands more veterans who need the help of a qualified attorney, we launched the Veterans Pro Bono Program in 2010 to increase our capacity and the number of attorneys qualified to represent veterans. Staff attorneys and pro bono attorneys help veterans gather evidence and substantiate claims for disability benefits and discharge upgrades. The benefits application entails extensive and complicated paperwork. VA benefits are not automatic and many disabled, homeless, or at- risk veterans—especially those who are mentally ill, suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury or PTSD, or in failing health—cannot secure VA benefits without the expert help of an advocate. To help ensure the success of the Veterans Pro Bono Program, we partnered with the Practising Law Institute and the State Bar of California to develop curriculum and deliver continuing legal education training to attorneys as a way to enable attorneys to engage as veterans pro bono representation. This year alone, more than 1,500 attorneys participated in the training - “Advocating for Veterans – the Basics on Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Combat to Community.” As a result of our training efforts, the number of VA-accredited attorneys in California has doubled. Our Recent Growth Our Pro Bono Program continues to thrive. The program grew tremendously in 2014 enabling us to help more veterans than ever. Here are a few highlights from 2014: • Swords’ staff and pro bono attorneys helped 732 veterans in 2014 - the highest number in Swords’ history! • At the end of 2014, we had 125 attorneys affiliated with the Veterans Pro Bono Program and placed 107 cases with pro bono attorneys. • In March 2014 we launched the Pro Bono Advisory Board, which is now comprised of 26 law firms and 3 corporate partners. • We expanded drop-in legal consultations for veterans which are now offered at five locations throughout the Bay Area. Three of the locations are regularly staffed by pro bono attorneys. • Swords to Plowshares’ Drop-In Center – 2x weekly • San Francisco Downtown VA Clinic – 2x monthly • San Francisco VA Hospital – 1x weekly • Palo Alto VA Hospital – 1x monthly • Menlo Park VA Hospital - 1x monthly • 354 veterans received one-time consultation at one of our 5 Legal Drop-in Clinic locations; Pro bono attorneys staffed 23 legal drop-in clinics where 165 veterans received one-time consultation. For more information about the Veterans Pro Bono Program, contact us at VETERANS PRO BONO PROGRAM PRO BONO ADVISORY BOARD PARTNERS Arnold Porter Baker McKenzie Chevron Coblentz Patch Duffy Bass Cooley Covington Burling Dentons Farella Braun + Martel Fenwick West Gibson Dunn Hanson Bridgett Hewlett-Packard Jones Day Keker Van Nest Latham Watkins LinkedIn Manatt, Phelps Phillips Morgan, Lewis Bockius Morrison Foerster Nixon Peabody O’Melveny Myers Orrick, Herrington Sutcliffe Paul Hastings Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman Reed Smith Shearman Sterling Sheppard Mullin Richter Hampton Sidley Austin Simpson Thacher Bartlett Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati
  23. 23. 23 Success Stories Vietnam veteran, John, was finally successful in securing his VA benefits and pension with the help of a partner at Manatt, Phelps Phillips. John was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1976 after serving on active duty for more than two years. Since his discharge from the military, he had multiple incarcerations for minor matters, was unable to hold a steady job and had been homeless most of his civilian life. John had filed on his own numerous pension applications - all denied. The pro bono attorney obtained an excellent letter from John’s VA psychologist highlighting his chronic and accelerating PTSD. He filed a new and comprehensive claim on John’s behalf seeking a full pension on the grounds that he is 100% disabled. As a result, John received a $12,000 retroactive payment and was awarded ongoing monthly VA disability compensation and pension. Two associates at Latham Watkins represented a veteran client, Ron, with his service-connected disability claim. The pro bono attorneys assisted him filing a disability claim for cancer resulting from Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. Additionally, the attorneys provided the VA with documentation demonstrating that he was entitled to receive retroactive payments. In October 2014, the VA determined that Ron’s lung cancer was service-connected. The VA increased his total disability rating to 100% and Ron was awarded an additional $15,000 retroactive payment as well as ongoing dependency and spousal benefits. Bill Brockett Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Christopher Carlberg, a litigation associate in the San Francisco office of Latham Watkins, received the Bill Brockett Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award for his outstanding service to Swords to Plowshares. The award was presented at a legal reception held at the law firm of Keker Van Nest LLP in San Francisco. Carlberg said that he was honored and encouraged his colleagues to get involved. In the past year, Carlberg has staffed four legal clinics, completed over 100 pro bono hours for veterans, and acted as a general resource in veteran-related matters. He serves on Swords to Plowshares’ Pro Bono Advisory Board and Latham’s Pro Bono Committee, and successfully represented a Gulf War era veteran with a service-connected claim for PTSD. “It has been a great experience to work with clients referred by Swords to Plowshares and engage them directly on a personal level,” Carlberg said. “They’ve given me firsthand insight into how important pro bono legal assistance is in helping veterans navigate the labyrinth of forms and regulations involved when applying for veterans benefits.” Swords to Plowshares executive director Michael Blecker said that delays in the legal system often cause undue suffering to at-risk veterans, and that it’s critical for them to receive legal assistance in the early stages. “If not for the efforts of attorneys like Chris Carlberg, we’d have a lot more vets in the street,” added Del Seymour, Swords to Plowshares board member and founder of the Tenderloin Walking Tours. “Often county officers can’t give veterans the quality time that our clients need because of their heavy caseloads. But these attorneys here tonight are handling multimillion-dollar cases, yet they still make time to help a veteran in need.” VETERANS PRO BONO PROGRAM John Keker, Partner, Keker Van Nest; Christopher Carlberg, Latham Watkins Associate; Michael Blecker, Swords to Plowshares Executive Director; Kate Richardson, Swords to Plowshares Staff Attorney Pro Bono Manager
  24. 24. 24 WAYS TO HELP 1060 HOWARD STREET SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94103 415.252.4788 BOARD OF DIRECTORS Stephen Plath - Board Chair Stacey Sprenkel - Vice Chair Peter McCorkell - Board Secretary Julie Cane Paul Cox Rick Houlberg Judy Birk Kridle Rose Lavandero Yaniv Newman Del Seymour Stephen M. Snyder Ben Suncin Javier Tenorio Robert Trevorrow ADVISORY BOARD Mike Cerre William Drypolcher Steve Fields John Keker Dudley Miller William Millichap Major General J. Michael Myatt (USMC Ret.) Jon Paulson The Honorable Nancy Pelosi Mark Solit Roger Walther Carol Wilder Chris Kanios Joanette Sorkin FOLLOW US! Set up Monthly Donations Will you consider donating $40 each month in honor of our 40 years of service? It is easy to do on our website and will go a long way in helping more veterans in need. Visit donate and select “make this a recurring donation.” Double or Triple Your Donation Many employers have a matching gift program. Qualifying donations are often matched up to a pre-designated limit. What this means, for example, is a $100 donation will be matched with $100 by your employer thereby doubling the initial donation. Some employers may even have a double match making your $100 donation worth $300. Talk to your Human Resources department for more information and consider participating in the matching gift program. This is an easy way to make your donation go further. Tell Five Friends about Swords to Plowshares Sharing our message that war causes wounds and suffering that lasts beyond the battlefield is a powerful way to increase our supporters and help more veterans in need. Tell five friends about the critically important work Swords to Plowshares provides to our community.