1974 2024


Years of Vets Helping Vets

A Legacy of Compassionate Service & Bold Advocacy



It's our 50th year at Swords to Plowshares! This milestone isn't just about celebrating our history; it's about the people, stories, and achievements that have brought us here. Together, we've made a real difference in veterans' lives, and as we look ahead, we're inspired to keep this mission going.

Who We Are

Understand the drive behind Swords to Plowshares

About us
Our Leadership

Get to know our passionate leaders and board members

Our team


About our mission statement
Our Mission

War causes wounds and suffering that last beyond the battlefield. Swords to Plowshares' mission is to support veterans as they navigate the challenges of post-military life, and to prevent and end veteran homelessness through wrap-around care and informed advocacy.

Our Vision

All veterans will have access to the care and services they need to achieve health, housing, wellness and stability.

Our Philosophy

Our philosophy of care recognizes that veteran homelessness, instability, institutional racism, and systemic oppression are interrelated and require an integrated network of support.


Our Journey Forward

Curious about what the future holds for Swords to Plowshares? Check out our Vision for Impact, which outlines our strategy to sustain and expand our work, narrowing in on three guiding principles. Your support can help bring this vision to life - let's create lasting change together.



How we started

A Decade of Neglect

After the Vietnam War, veterans faced rejection from a system ill-equipped to meet their needs. Traditional organizations and the VA shut their doors, prompting Vietnam veterans to champion inclusive, community-based care.

Remembering Jack McCloskey

Swords is established by six Vietnam veterans concerned with the unmet needs of their peers within the community and VA.


Former VA Secretary, Max Cleland, visits Swords.


Swords became the first organization in 32 years certified by the VA to represent veterans seeking benefits.


Encouraged by Swords' advocacy work, Congress established the VA Veteran Centers which were directly modeled after Swords' community-based inclusive approach to serving veterans.


Swords wins one of the first PTSD cases in the country.


Swords became a significant player in Agent Orange justice work. Michael Blecker served on the Agent Orange Advisory Board, and Swords attorneys developed the Agent Orange Self-Help Guide, which still helps veterans today access lifesaving health.

Rise Against Homelessness

The neglect of Vietnam veterans led to widespread homelessness. Swords co-founded the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, pressuring the VA to open its doors and allocate funds for community-based services, finally welcoming Vietnam veterans home.

Michael Blecker Welcomes Fellow Vets
Our Executive Director marching at a Welcome Home Parade in 1985

10 years after the end of the Vietnam War, "Welcome Home" parades began springing up to honor veterans.


Swords began its first transitional housing program with the purchase of a housing site to operate out of in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.


Michael Blecker and other advocates founded the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV).


Stand Downs are organized throughout California, enabling groups like Swords to connect with unhoused veterans and provide a multitude of services in one place with other veterans organizations.

VSOs Reach Maturity

Advocates, fueled by public funds and a new generation of Gulf War veterans, amplified specialized care for at-risk and neglected veterans. Swords to Plowshares fought for Gulf War veterans exposed to toxins and expanded our housing program to include the nation’s first permanent supportive housing site, building several pathways to justice.

Presidio Grand Opening
Former veteran staff members at Swords celebrate the opening of our first permanent housing program

Swords and four California organizations founded the California Association of Veteran Service Agencies to improve services for California's veterans and educate our communities.


Veteran activists and advocates exposed the military's knowledge of toxic exposure. At the same time, Swords created the Gulf War Self-Help Guide to enable impacted veterans with the tools to access care they deserve.


Swords opened the country's first veteran-specific permanent supportive housing site. Located in the Presidio, the buildings were renovated from Army barracks to hold 108 units for unhoused veterans living with disabilities and PTSD.


Swords’ Treasure Island Transitional Housing Program launched as a first step to recovery for hundreds of veterans, and ignited our work to transform Treasure Island from a retired military base to an environment where veterans could heal from their military experiences.

Post-9/11 Veteran Support

Advocates mobilized as Post-9/11 veterans returned home, launching new organizations and bolstering existing ones. The VA introduced programs for homeless veterans, reshaping resource availability. This supportive environment allowed Swords to expand in the East Bay, and develop programming tailored to a new era of veterans.

Veterans are Everywhere
Veterans at SHOUT!, an art exhibition showcasing the work of women veterans in the Bay Area

Responding to the needs of Post-9/11 veterans, Swords established a Policy department tasked with increasing awareness of the diversity, experiences, and stereotypes that are connected to the veteran population in the United States.


Swords developed the Combat to Community training to educate service professionals and other advocates on how to better interact with veterans needing assistance. This training enhances awareness of the unique lived experiences of veterans navigating their return to civilian life. Learn more here.


Swords expanded in the East Bay to offer housing assistance services to veterans and veteran families.


Swords launched its Veterans Pro Bono Program, connecting veterans with free and necessary legal support.


Swords expanded its permanent supportive housing program with the opening of another housing site, Veterans Commons, and converting more transitional housing units on Treasure Island.


Former Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, visits Swords.

Decade of Growth

Within the last decade, new VA programs and funding spurred housing development for veterans at risk or with a history of homelessness. Swords to Plowshares expanded supportive housing units and eligibility for VA services while doubling its staff and resources, defining a period of significant growth.

From Humble Beginnings
Swords to Plowshares started among 6 Vietnam veterans. Today, the organization employs a staff of 200, dedicated to the mission of ending veteran homelessness and poverty.

Swords continued expanding housing for veterans with a new site in downtown San Francisco, holding 130 studio apartments, and opening a low barrier stabilization program.


Swords launched a national effort to advocate for inclusion of veterans with "bad paper" to gain access to VA healthcare and benefits.


Michael Blecker was appointed by Speaker Pelosi to serve on the Commission on Care to examine the current and future state of the Veterans Health Administration.


In collaboration with Chinatown Community Development Center, Swords opened Edwin M. Lee Apartments for 62 veterans and 56 families.


Swords & NextGen Policy successfully advocated for a pilot program to improve housing stability for aging and formerly homeless veterans in California. The pilot allocated $25 million dollars from the state to support a higher level of services for veterans over the age of 55 with high-acuity and who reside in permanent housing sites across California.


Swords opened the Veterans Community Center, a unique space with extended hours of operation for veterans to connect over meals, attend regular support groups, and access resources at their own pace.


Upon completion of major renovations to its first permanent housing site in the Presidio, Swords dedicated the Jon W. Paulson Veterans Community in honor of longtime supporter and friend, Jon Paulson.


Swords opened its second permanent supportive housing site that includes family units, the Maceo May Apartments on Treasure Island. It is named after Maceo May, a trailblazer for veterans' rights and Swords' first housing director.


Michael Blecker is honored by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi as her guest at the 2024 State of the Union address, commemorating Michael’s lifelong commitment to veterans and decades of collaboration between the Congresswoman and Swords.


Share Your Swords to
Plowshares Story

Swords has impacted many lives throughout the years, and we'd be honored to hear your memories. Your experiences will inspire us and contribute to the spirit of our mission.

Submit your memories

Join the Golden Donor Circle

Please support our Golden Anniversary with a special gift, going beyond your usual level. Your generosity has fueled our success for 50 years. As veterans' challenges evolve, your support ensures we can provide vital services and advocacy. Consider a multi-year pledge to sustain our efforts and secure future success.

DAF and Stock Giving

If you’d like make DAF or stock donations, please reach out to ccorliss@stp-sf.org for more information.

Matching Gift Challenge

Double your impact! Check if your employer offers a matching gift program, and your contribution could go even further.

Plan your Legacy

Consider leaving a lasting impact by including Swords to Plowshares in your estate planning. Contact us for more information on legacy giving options.

Veterans Legacy Circle

Honor a Veteran

Dedicate a gift in honor or in memory of a veteran close to your heart, acknowledging their service and sacrifice.

Meet Carol

Discover the impact of giving through stories like Carol's.

Read more

Spread the Word

Share our anniversary campaign on social media, encouraging friends and family to contribute and amplify the impact of our collective efforts.


honor our heroes

On November 7, 2024, we will celebrate our 50 years of service! We invite our wonderful community of supporters to join us in celebrating this amazing milestone. This year, we have a special honoree to be announced later, and we don't want any of our supporters to miss the event. Our sponsors are critical to the success of this annual fundraising event. We can’t wait to celebrate with you!

Thursday, November 7th 2024 at 6 pm
The Green Room, San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building