Swords to Plowshares is a wrap-around service organization, offering holistic support to veterans, including but not limited to employment, housing, and legal services. Our departments continually work together to ensure that veterans are given the support and resources that they need to succeed. Case Manager John Rabago says, “There’s a sense of camaraderie here, a shared mission to better the life of a veteran that comes to us for help.”
Two departments that frequently work in conjunction on this shared mission are Employment & Training (E&T) and Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF). The SSVF department provides housing searches, placement assistance, eviction prevention, rental assistance and more to veterans and their families. E&T focuses on ensuring veterans are job-ready, then assisting them to secure employment.
One such veteran that benefited from our wrap-around support is Norman Stroud. He was in transitional housing through Operation Dignity, and found out about Swords to Plowshares through the agency. “I had a hard time finding a job and housing because of my background, but Swords to Plowshares has helped me turn it around. It’s been a life changing experience for me,” says Norman.
SSVF helped secure him longer-term housing and he was referred to the Oakland office’s E&T department. He worked with Case Manager John Rabago, who initially helped prepare him for the next steps of job searching. “He was really motivated from the get-go,” says John. “He had a difficult background, but he was adamant about changing his life.”
With Norman’s motivation and the expert advice and support of E&T, he was able to land a position at a major communications company doing over-the-phone customer service and sales. Sarah Wong, his job developer at the time, knows this is a great fit for him. “He’s really shining and able to find success at his position. He is very easy to work with and is on-top of everything.”
As Norman’s employment was secured, he was able to improve his housing. Raynetta Lewis, Program Manager for SSVF, feels that the support between E&T and SSVF is essential for veteran success. “With SSVF, we help provide stability for housing while the veteran is getting stable in their job. They don’t need to go to their job and be worrying about their housing. We can do a lot to help.”
Raynetta shares another individual who demonstrates the dual impact of SSVF and E&T, Javon Longmire. She was working as a case manager when she met him, and worked closely with him through his housing needs. “We helped Javon to get stable in his housing,” she says, “and he’s still in that same place and is doing well.”
A Marine Corps veteran from the Vietnam Era, Javon first came to Swords for support with housing. As his housing situation got settled, he was referred to E&T. With a strong background in security work, Javon was quickly hired as a front desk security position to a major technology company in San Francisco.
In speaking with Javon, his personal drive is obvious. With the resources and support from Swords, he had the tools to thrive. “At times, I was frustrated [with my situation] but Swords helped me move forward and we got it done,” he says. “My experience with Swords was excellent.” He is happy in his new job and secure in his housing. “They walked me through the process I needed to go through to get where I am now.”
Both E&T as well as SSVF are applauding the successes of these veterans. Javon is settling into his new job and Norman is celebrating six months at his position—and has now become the third best salesperson at his company. Javon has maintained a stable housing situation and Norman signed a lease shortly before Thanksgiving. Norman hadn’t had his own place in many years, and says, “I love this feeling of being free!” Swords’ wrap around services allow us to smoothly assist veterans, like Norman and Javon, in significant life areas.
Director of Supportive Services for Veteran Families and Employment and Training Erica Trejo says, “The intersection between the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and Employment and Training programs has allowed us to meet two very basic and critical needs for veterans who walk in our doors needing housing and employment. The impact that these two programs provide isn’t minor; direct service staff plays a key role in supporting veterans in transforming their lives and guiding them towards stability. These success stories showcase how important it is for our country and communities to continue to support these crucial services for our veterans.”