Swords to Plowshares, a Bay Area veterans service agency, has been awarded $1 million annually over the next three years in additional, new grant funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve East Bay veterans and their families as part of a nationwide effort to end veteran homelessness. These funds are in addition to existing SSVF funding that targets 5 Bay Area Counties.
Under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program (SSVF), the funds will help approximately 30 veterans and their families every month in Alameda County. The grant is aimed at non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low income veteran families living in—or transitioning to—permanent housing.
In 2013, Swords to Plowshares helped 359 veterans and family members secure permanent housing and/or prevent eviction in San Francisco and Alameda Counties. Delivered by community-based organizations and funded by the VA, SSVF is a low-cost and high-impact program with proven success. Nationally, the average cost per family under the SSVF program is $2,450 and the national housing retention rate is 84 percent. The VA renewed funds for organizations that successfully operated the SSVF, and additionally awarded these “surge funds” to high-performing organizations in high-need regions.
“Because we’ve held up our end of the bargain in making sure that veterans get the housing they need, the VA is asking us to expand upon what we’re doing,” said Michael Blecker, Executive Director of Swords to Plowshares and a Vietnam combat veteran. “This grant creates a wide safety net for all veterans—young, old, chronically homeless and those high-priority veterans who have no shelter and all, plus their families and their children.”
Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Keith Carson is equally glad with the grant awards. “We are very pleased that these additional resources will be coming to serve those men and women who served us so bravely, and face such economic hardships now,” Carson stated. “Last year Alameda County assistance agencies served 885 homeless veterans; to be able to help 200 more per year to obtain housing that will substantially reduce the number of vets and their families without homes, makes the goal of ending veterans homelessness a reachable one in Alameda County.”
Leon Winston, the Chief Operating Officer of Swords to Plowshares and a formerly homeless veteran, stressed the need for the grant to continue over the next three years as originally planned. Swords to Plowshares opened an East Bay office in 2009 and first began operating the SSVF program in Alameda County in 2013.
“The surge funding will allow us to provide rapid re-housing services and eviction prevention services to hundreds of additional veterans and, and move us closer to meeting the VA’s and Swords to Plowshares’ goal of ending veteran homelessness,” Winston said. “In order to get our veterans and their families off the streets once and for all, and prevent others from falling into homelessness, it’s critical that the funding continues next year and beyond.”
Through Swords to Plowshares, veterans will receive assistance with eviction prevention,
housing acquisition, and a number of services to provide the stability needed to prevent
homelessness. The expanded SSVF services will greatly complement Swords to Plowshares’ existing array of services, including employment and training, case management and counseling and benefits advocacy. As a result of this funding, Swords to Plowshares will have $1.7 million available to serve more than 500 San Francisco veterans and their families and $1 million to serve approximately 375 East Bay veterans and their families each year until 2017. A very significant portion of these funds go towards direct financial assistance to homeless and at risk veterans and their families.