Success Story: Verna Burton’s Path to Housing

Verna Burton with Drop-in Coordinator LaJune Davis

Verna Burton, a Chicago native, served in the U.S. Navy (1988-1992), working on submersible pumps during a time when women were not allowed on submarines. Despite this challenge, she enjoyed her time in the Navy and transitioned out of service just before the start of Operation Desert Storm. Verna went on to enjoy success in a multiplicity of jobs, including time as a beauty shop owner, leasing consultant, and a Greyhound bus driver.

In the summer of 2017, Verna began to research career opportunities outside of Chicago. She came across a position at McGee Air Services at the San Francisco Airport. Verna applied and landed the job and was slated to relocate and start in October 2017. With her impending move to the Bay Area, Verna found a place online, put down a security deposit, and made her way out to San Francisco.

When Verna arrived in San Francisco, she discovered that the place she invested her security deposit into was a scam. Out of money—and nearly out of hope—Verna searched for resources for veterans to try and avoid a night on the streets. Verna came across Swords to Plowshares and frantically made her way down to our main office and entered our drop-in center, just two minutes before closing, and broke down crying.

However, Verna’s tears wouldn’t last long, as our Drop-in Coordinator, LaJune Davis, immediately consoled her and told her how we could help in this dire emergency. They filled out all the applications immediately, found emergency housing for that night, and scheduled another appointment for the following day to help find a permanent solution.

Over the course of the next couple weeks, Verna worked with various members of our staff to not only find permanent housing through Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, but also receive other critical services like food and travel vouchers, as well as financial assistance to purchase equipment that was necessary for her upcoming job. Thanks to the work of our staff, Verna started her new position without the threat of being homeless in an unfamiliar area with a low supply of affordable housing options. Verna has now been at her job for over six months and has already received a promotion.

Shortened Version of this story was published in the Department of Veterans Affairs Vantage blog: Out of money and nearly out of hope, Navy Veteran gets help when needed most