Luis Lujan joined the U.S. Navy in July 1988 when he was only 17 years old and served as a parachute rigger. After separating, Luis had a hard time transitioning back into a civilian lifestyle. “When you’re in the military, you have three meals and a place to sleep whether you have money or not. Then when you get out, you don’t have that unless you provide it for yourself,” said Luis.
Luis worked hard to provide stability for himself, his spouse, and children, until about 10 years ago when he was in a major car accident that exasperated his military injuries and left him unable to work. Dealing with chronic pain, he struggled to make ends meet and take care of his family. His income was not enough to afford a place of their own, and he had to live with his in-laws.
After moving back to the Bay Area, Luis started receiving healthcare from the Palo Alto VA Medical Center. There he discovered that he was misdiagnosed by his previous provider and learned of his nerve impingement and three ruptured spinal disks. Luis shares that “if it wasn’t for the VA, I would be walking with a cane or walker.” With new treatment plans for recovery, he was ready to regain stability.
Coming to Swords to Plowshares, Luis had low expectations of a good outcome. But with the help of SSVF and Employment and Training, he was able to find housing and employment. Luis worked with SSVF Housing Placement Coordinator, Gail Chow, to find a place to live and received moving assistance. He then began working with E&T Employment Specialist, Teresa Livingston, who was able to get him connected to a position with the State of California. He was surprised with how fast the application and hiring process was, which he says was all due to “Teresa’s magic.”
Today, Luis works for the State of California at the Employment Development Department (EDD) in San Francisco. He is a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist, where he helps disabled veterans with finding gainful employment. He is grateful to have the chance to help clients who are in the same position as he once was. When he sees people living in the streets, he is reminded how easily that could have been him. He is thankful his job gives him the opportunity to pay back to veterans in need.
“Sometimes all somebody needs is a little bit of help. Without the help of Swords, I would not be where I am today.” Luis’ goal over the next year is to gain a permanent position after completing his probationary period with EDD. From there, he wishes to become stable enough to buy a new home for his family. Over the next five years, he looks forward to seeing his four children go off to college.