Swords to Plowshares has been on the frontlines working with homeless, at-risk, and other vulnerable veterans for over 45 years. Our work to end poverty and homelessness has not stopped because of COVID-19 and we continue to provide critical services that our veterans have relied on over the years. None of which are probably more critical during this crisis than moving veterans off the streets and into housing so they can safely Shelter in Place.
As of mid-April, nearly 20% of all COVID-related hospitalizations in San Francisco were from individuals who were homeless. Our dedicated outreach specialists have adopted safety and physical distancing guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and have continued to connect with unsheltered veterans through community-based referrals. Despite the daunting logistics and challenges, our team has secured emergency housing for dozens of veterans since Shelter in Place started in mid-March.
One veteran had been released from a local jail as part of the process to reduce the inmate ￼to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. This veteran had been released at the beginning of Shelter in Place into an unsheltered environment with no supports. He tried emailing and calling community organizations in the East Bay but could not connect nor heard any reply. Desperate, the veteran contacted a physician from the jail who in turn reached out to one of our outreach specialists, Dennis Johnson.
Dennis, a U.S. Army veteran, quickly reached out to the veteran to set up a time and date to connect him to our services. The veteran could not believe his persistent efforts of reaching out had finally paid off. He found a lifeline in Dennis, in what he said what his most dire moment. Thankfully, he moved into emergency housing in a rapid fashion and continues to utilize our services to get his life back on track.
“Working with veterans is very near and dear to my heart,” said Dennis Johnson. “I always try my best to connect our veterans to what they need, and COVID-19 makes no difference. We just continue to adapt to these challenges to do what’s best for our vets.”