“It’s about time!” exclaimed Brittany Mares, a long-time property manager at the Veterans Academy. This is the sentiment shared by employees and residents alike at Swords’ oldest permanent supportive housing site located in the Presidio. They finally have working elevators in their buildings! The Veterans Academy is two re-purposed U.S. Army barracks that primarily house older veterans who experienced chronic homelessness before coming to Swords. The elevators represent a vital step in rehabbing the buildings, making them more accessible to the community of aging residents.
One resident, Jerry Bartlett (U.S. Navy, 1974-80), has benefitted immensely from the elevators during their first month of utilization. “They have impacted and changed my life.” Before the elevator installation, Jerry was often secluded in his apartment unit on the 3rd floor and faced physical difficulties making it up and down the four flights of stairs. A severe back injury and body weight made it impossible for him to leave his unit and the building. Being unable to freely move became a major hardship for Jerry, who enjoys being active in his community. “It was changing my personality, and it scared me.” A mobility specialist was able to help Jerry engineer a way to use crutches down the stairs, but he knew that would not be sustainable forever.
With the elevators running, Jerry can come and go as he pleases on his electric scooter, and continue the outreach work he does to help unhoused people around San Francisco, primarily in Fisherman’s Wharf. “The elevators are a godsend. I don’t have to use my crutches and I don’t have to ask for help… everything is looking great. People can go wherever, whenever they want. It’s changed lives.”
“It’s great to see more people, more often, enjoying our common areas,” details Brittany. “They’re being able to join the community without it being a strain on their body.” We could not have reached this milestone without the support of our donors and partners who share our goal to provide permanent supportive housing to aging veterans and veterans with mobility challenges.