PLATINUM2023

SWORDS TO PLOWSHARES VETERANS RIGHTS ORGANIZATION

When their service ends, our mission begins.

aka Swords to Plowshares   |   San Francisco, CA   |  www.swords-to-plowshares.org

Mission

War causes wounds and suffering that last beyond the battlefield. Swords to Plowshares' mission is to heal the wounds of war, to restore dignity, hope and self-sufficiency to all veterans in need, and to prevent and end homelessness and poverty among veterans.

Ruling year info

1976

Executive Director

Mr. Michael Blecker

Main address

401 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 313

San Francisco, CA 94102 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

94-2260626

NTEE code info

Military/Veterans' Organizations (W30)

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

During their transition from military service to civilian life, veterans may face a number of interrelated health and stability barriers, such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, service-related disability, and lack of access to healthcare, that impact their ability to achieve long-term stability and independence. For veterans facing such barriers, success is unlikely without the intervention of supportive services to address their visible and invisible wounds of war. Recognizing this unmet need, a group of Vietnam veterans founded Swords to Plowshares in 1974 to support their veteran peers. For nearly 50 years, Swords to Plowshares has provided wraparound, veteran-specific supportive services to address the health and stability barriers that prevent veterans from successfully transitioning to the civilian community. Swords to Plowshares assists all veterans in building their long-term health, wellness, income, and housing stability.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Drop-in Center

Swords to Plowshares' Drop-in Center provides outreach and critical care to help veterans increase their health and stability. Staff provide crisis intervention, case management, counseling, group therapy and peer support groups, and referrals for in-house and community-based services. We first address veterans’ immediate needs—such as securing food or medications—and then offer services that will enable them to improve their long-term housing stability, financial security, and overall well-being.

Services include:
• Case management, mental health assessment, and counseling
• Financial empowerment workshops and representative-payee services
• Income stability assistance, including help applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
• Meal and transportation vouchers
• Mail, telephone and internet/computer services
• Referrals for in-house and community-based programs, including substance abuse treatment

Population(s) Served
Veterans
Homeless people
Low-income people

A housing provider for more than three decades, Swords to Plowshares operates more than 500 units of affordable, supportive housing for Bay Area veterans. We offer on-site services, e.g. counseling, to address the barriers veterans may face on their path toward housing stability, financial independence, and long-term well-being.

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH):
We recognize that veterans with histories of chronic homelessness require wraparound care and resources to stabilize their lives and live independently. Our PSH sites offer onsite mental health counseling, support groups, educational programs, and community activities in an autonomous living environment.

Stabilization Housing:
Our stabilization housing programs allow for a peaceful lifestyle, therapeutic to veterans who are trying to stabilize their lives. Health improvement and reintegration into society after periods of homelessness, addiction, incarceration, and other factors are the main goals at these housing sites.

Population(s) Served
Veterans
Homeless people
People with disabilities

Our Employment and Training Services program provides job placement assistance and vocational training programs to help veterans translate their military skills and train for new careers in the civilian sector. Job placement services are delivered through a client-centered case management approach that helps veterans overcome barriers and obtain meaningful employment. We also engage in outreach to employers, partnering to help them meet their veteran hiring initiatives through recruitment and job brokering.

We help veterans to:
• Find a job
• Enroll in job training
• Build a resume and cover letter
• Prepare for job interviews

We provide eligible veterans with:
• Job readiness training and services
• Transportation and meal vouchers
• Professional clothes, tools and other supplies

We offer employers:
• Job brokering services, including recruiting and on-boarding veterans
• Dual customer service approach
• Cultural competency training and accreditation for HR personnel

Population(s) Served
Veterans
Unemployed people
Low-income people

Swords to Plowshares helps veterans avoid and overcome homelessness by providing emergency housing, housing placement services, and eviction prevention assistance for veterans. We utilize a "Housing First" model that promotes housing as the first step to achieve stability. We place unhoused veterans in temporary hotel stays while we work with them to find and secure permanent housing. We also provide housing-related financial assistance to help veterans retain or obtain housing. For veterans with significant housing barriers, we offer a financial empowerment program with rent paid first. We also partner with landlords and work with the HUD-VASH program to increase veterans’ access to affordable housing.

Services provided upon eligibility:
• Housing search and placement assistance
• Eviction prevention and rental assistance
• Utility payments
• Security deposit and first month’s rent
• Move-in and childcare expenses
• Transportation assistance
• Money management services

Population(s) Served
Veterans
Homeless people
Low-income people

Swords to Plowshares is one of the few organizations that provides free legal consultation and attorney representation to veterans seeking assistance with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and military discharge upgrade cases. Our attorneys help veterans, especially underserved veterans with disabilities, remove unjust legal barriers to access the VA benefits they earned. All services are free of charge.

Our clients have a greater than 90% success rate for claims that come to resolution, and each year, our attorneys win millions in benefits for our veteran clients.

VA benefits and related issues:
• Service-connected disability compensation
• Non-service-connected pension
• Character of discharge applications for basic veteran eligibility
• Medical care entitlement
• Rating increases
• Overpayment issues
• Appeals

Military discharge review/upgrade:
• Discharge Upgrade applications
• Requests for corrections to military records

Population(s) Served
Veterans
People with disabilities

Swords to Plowshares’ Policy department works to strengthen systems of care for veterans and their families. Our policy and community education efforts reflect decades of experience in direct community-based care. Our Policy staff share best-practice expertise and advocate for more effective policies and legislation at all levels of government to increase U.S. veterans' access to physical and mental healthcare, housing, and community-based support networks. We are a trusted source of expertise.

Our Policy team serves the community through:
• Research and publications, including transition support for veterans
• Policy development and advocacy at local, state and federal levels
• Strategic partnerships with foundations, corporations, and community-based providers
• Community education, including Combat to Community® curricula for professionals
• Online resource library for veteran providers and advocates: Toolbox.vet

Population(s) Served
Veterans
Military personnel

Where we work

Awards

Warrior Open Support Organization 2014

George W. Bush Institute

Neighborhood Builders Award 2019

Bank of America

Affiliations & memberships

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) 1990

California Association of Veteran Service Agencies (CAVSA) 1995

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of service recipients who are employed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans, Unemployed people, Low-income people

Related Program

Employment & Training Services

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Number of veterans who obtain employment with the support of Swords to Plowshares' Employment and Training Services program

Number of clients assisted with legal needs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans, People with disabilities

Related Program

Legal Services

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Number of veterans provided with free legal assistance and/or attorney representation in order to increase their access to Department of Veterans Affairs' veterans benefits and disability compensation

Average hourly wage of clients who became employed after job skills training

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans, Unemployed people, Low-income people

Related Program

Employment & Training Services

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

The Bay Area average minimum wage is $15.00/hour.

Number of clients served

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans, Low-income people, Homeless people, People with disabilities, Seniors

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Total number of veterans provided with supportive services at Swords to Plowshares

Number of people trained

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Policy

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Number of community professionals and service providers trained in veteran culture competency by Swords to Plowshares' Policy team

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Number of individuals, corporations, and foundations that donated more than $250

Number of housing units built

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans, Homeless people, Low-income people

Related Program

Supportive Housing

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

New supportive housing units developed by Swords to Plowshares and partners

Number of households that obtain/retain permanent housing for at least 6 months

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans, Homeless people, Low-income people

Related Program

Homelessness Prevention & Housing Placement Services

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Decreasing

Context Notes

Number of veterans who received housing-related financial assistance to prevent eviction or secure independent housing in the community

Number of people in the area with access to affordable housing as a result of the nonprofit's efforts

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Veterans, Homeless people

Related Program

Supportive Housing

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Number of veterans housed in our supportive housing programs

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Swords to Plowshares aims to heal the wounds of war, to restore dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency to all veterans in need, and to prevent and end homelessness and poverty among veterans. To accomplish our mission, Swords to Plowshares continually adjusts, adapts, and expands our outreach and programs to meet the changing needs of underserved and marginalized veterans. Our staff emphasizes quality over quantity in terms of our services and will continue to provide holistic support to help veterans gain long-term stability and independence. Wrapped within our overarching organization goal, Swords to Plowshares aims to:

• Reduce veteran homelessness in the Bay Area to a functional zero by providing eviction prevention and re-housing services for veterans, and housing veterans in our supportive housing programs;
• Increase access to Department of Veterans Affairs’ healthcare benefits and disability compensation for underserved veterans through legal recourse;
• Ensure community-based mental health care for veterans is accessible;
• Increase meaningful employment for veterans experiencing unemployment or underemployment by providing employment and training services that promote job attainment and retention; and
• Promote and protect the rights of veterans by advocating for effective national, state, and local policies, focusing on supporting senior and unhoused veterans, veterans with "bad paper," and marginalized veteran populations.

At Swords to Plowshares, we understand that the barriers veterans face during their transition to civilian life are interrelated and require an integrated network of support. As a result, we developed a wraparound continuum of care that holistically addresses many of the health and stability barriers veterans may experience while adjusting to civilian life. Our veteran-specific supportive services work in unison to stabilize veterans by addressing issues including homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to healthcare. By helping veterans overcome barriers to their health and stability, we enable them to succeed in achieving long-term independence.

For our homelessness services, Swords to Plowshares relies on an evidence-based, cost-effective approach to addressing homelessness known as “Housing First.” This model recognizes that homelessness is first and foremost a housing problem and that issues that contribute to a veteran’s homelessness can best be addressed once they are housed. The Housing First model prioritizes providing homeless veterans with housing as quickly as possible coupled with wraparound supportive services to promote housing stability, access to employment and sustainable income, healthcare engagement, and individual well-being.

In addition to direct supportive services, Swords to Plowshares advocates locally and nationwide for improved care and services for veterans. Our Policy Department trains community professionals, including law enforcement, medical personnel, hiring managers, and community service providers, on veteran culture competency. Our professionally-accredited Combat to Community© training enables professionals to better identify, engage, and support veterans they serve. Staff attorneys from our Legal Services program provide accredited training in veterans benefits law through the Practising Law Institute to help attorneys nationwide better advocate for their veteran clients to receive disability compensation and healthcare. Since the launch of our trainings in 2010, the number of California attorneys trained in VA law has more than doubled.

Ultimately, Swords to Plowshares’ vision—a community where all veterans have access to the care and services they need to rebuild their lives—drives us to continually develop innovative and responsive services to best meet veterans’ changing needs.

Our experience and expertise are unmatched. Founded in 1974, Swords to Plowshares is the most experienced and comprehensive veterans service organization in the 9-county San Francisco Bay Area. We are one of the only organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area whose services: 1) are explicitly designed to meet the needs of those who served in the military; 2) offer wraparound support to help veterans address interrelated barriers to housing and financial stability, including homelessness, unemployment, mental health disabilities, and lack of healthcare; and 3) are provided to all veterans, regardless of military era or discharge status. We are nationally-recognized for our expertise and coordinated, high-quality services and advocacy.

Swords to Plowshares has been at the forefront of veterans’ advocacy for nearly fifty years—winning VA recognition of PTSD, creating the Agent Orange Self-Help Guide for veterans, leading efforts to create veterans’ housing programs, fighting for VA eligibility for underserved veterans, and more. In 1978, we were certified by the VA to represent veterans seeking benefits, and we are now a leader in legal advocacy to rectify inequity and injustice in the VA adjudication system. We pioneered a low barrier to entry and Housing First approach for homeless veterans entering housing programs before it was officially adopted by the VA and HUD. We opened our first transitional housing program in 1988 and our first PSH program in 2000.

Swords to Plowshares prides itself on its peer-based approach; our Executive Director and the majority of our Board of Directors are veterans. Our organization’s leadership provide expert knowledge and experience in serving veterans as well as the high-level skillsets required to provide agency oversight and innovative program design to meet veterans’ emerging needs. Our staff members regularly present best practices for serving veterans at statewide and national conferences. We work in coordination with the VA, Vet Centers, County Veterans Service Offices (CVSOs) as well as community-based partners to ensure veterans have the resources they need to thrive.

In our dual role as veteran service provider and veteran advocate, Swords to Plowshares is uniquely positioned to identify and address the changing needs of veterans and their families. Our experienced staff, strong history of community collaboration, fiscal strength, and ability to provide critical services assure our capacity to responsively and effectively serve veterans in need.

Swords to Plowshares has been at the forefront serving and advocating for veterans since 1974. We are nationally recognized for our model programs, expert leadership, and continued dedication to fighting on behalf of our nation’s veterans. We work closely with our partners in local and federal government to end veteran homelessness. Our successes include:
• In 1978, Swords to Plowshares became the first organization in 32 years to be granted certification to represent veterans in legal cases for VA benefits. One year later, we won one of the first PTSD cases in the country.
• In 1988, we began a stabilization housing program in San Francisco, and another in 1992.
• In 2000, we opened the first permanent supportive housing site for veterans in the nation.
• In 2002, a Governor’s report named us one of the best state programs serving the homeless.
• In 2008, Swords to Plowshares developed a Combat to Community veteran cultural competency training for police officers, clinicians, employers and service providers.
• In 2009, we expanded to the East Bay; our Oakland Service Center now provides our complete continuum of care for East Bay veterans.
• In 2012 and 2014, Swords to Plowshares opened two more permanent supportive housing facilities for veterans with disabilities.
• In 2016, we launched a national effort to advocate for the inclusion of veterans with “bad paper” to gain access to VA healthcare and benefits.
• In 2017, we launched a Medical Legal Partnership with the Oakland Vet Center—the first community-based MLP with a Vet Center in the nation.
• In 2020, Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) opened a brand new permanent supportive housing site in Mission Bay for 119 unhoused veterans and low-income families.
• In 2021, we successfully advocated for a statewide pilot program to enhance on-site supportive services for senior veterans living in permanent supportive housing programs. Swords has been contracted to lead fellow veteran supportive housing providers in the implementation of this pilot.
• In 2022, we were one of three agencies in California and 30 nationally to receive a grant from the VA’s new Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program.
• In 2023, Swords to Plowshares opened a brand new permanent supportive housing site on Treasure Island for 104 veterans and veteran families.

For nearly 50 years, we have helped thousands of veterans access permanent housing, employment, healthcare, and income. Swords to Plowshares will remain at the forefront of veteran advocacy, continually evolving to best address the emerging needs of our veteran clients.

Financials

SWORDS TO PLOWSHARES VETERANS RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

SWORDS TO PLOWSHARES VETERANS RIGHTS ORGANIZATION

Board of directors
as of 01/26/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Michael Thiel

Democracy Investments

Paul Cox

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates

Julie Cane

Democracy Investments

Robert Trevorrow

San Francisco Senior Center, Retired

Michael Dekshenieks

EPAM Systems

Michael Thiel

Thiel, Vu & Associates LLC

Erik Edwards

Cooley LLP

John Marquez

Kaiser Permanente

Deleano "Del" Seymour

Tenderloin Walking Tours

Michael Fassler

Syufy Enterprises

Dottie Guy

Freelance

Placido "Joe" Ordona

Pinterest

Kate Richardson

Legal Link

Barbara Saavedra

Supreme Court of California

Diane Williamson

The Veterans Community Media Network

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/24/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 10/12/2020

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.