You don't have to watch the latest news to see the devastating impact that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are having on American soldiers. You can just look on the streets of many American cities.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are already homeless, and each year their numbers grow larger.
That's why Project Homeless Connect has teamed up with the City of San Francisco, the VA Medical Center, Swords to Plowshares and a coalition of businesses and non-profit organizations to help homeless veterans.
"The idea of Veterans Connect is to bring the VA, Project Homeless Connect, City of San Francisco and local non-profit organizations together to give America's homeless veterans the help and hope that they need and deserve," says Judith Klain, Director of Project Homeless Connect.
"About one-third of the adult homeless population has served their country" says Roberta Rosenthal, Network Homeless Coordinator for the Department of Veterans Affairs. "Veterans Connect is an excellent opportunity for us to partner with the City of San Francisco and other organizations to ensure homeless veterans have access to health care and other services."
These current conflicts seem to be different than earlier ones. After Vietnam veterans usually took between five and 10 years trying to readjust to civilian life before ending up on the streets. Veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are often winding up homeless after just 18 months.
It is estimated that there are up to 2,000 military veterans who are currently homeless in San Francisco. Aids groups and the Veterans Affairs Department have already said they expect to see an even bigger surge in homeless vets in the years ahead.
"We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to everyone who has served in uniform," says Paul Markovich, Senior Vice President & Chief Executive, Large Group Business Units with Blue Shield of California, which is sponsoring Veterans Connect. "As an organization dedicated to improving the health of Californians, we feel privileged to help those who have served their country with honor, and to thank them for their sacrifice."
Clients are able to access a wide range of services from mental health to dental health, immunizations and mammograms. Other services include things as simple as haircuts to employment information, legal assistance and housing resources. Services are geared towards all ages, from children and youth to adults and seniors. There is even a veterinary service to take care of people's pets.
PHC has proven so effective a model for addressing the issue of homelessness that it is now being copied in more than 170 cities and counties in 26 states around the U.S. It is also being replicated internationally in Canada and Australia.
About Project Homeless Connect
Project Homeless Connect makes a real difference in the lives of the City's homeless by bringing together almost 250 non-profit agencies, private businesses and volunteers to assist San Franciscans in need. Since the program's inception in October 2004 as a joint effort of San Francisco's health care, housing and human service systems, Project Homeless Connect has been supported by tens of thousands of volunteers, individuals and companies giving their time, cash, clothing, food and essential services. To date, this program has provided services to thousands of the City's most economically disadvantaged men, women and children with basic human needs and housing. Project Homeless Connect is a key component of Mayor Newsom's 10-year plan to abolish homelessness in San Francisco. This unprecedented approach to helping the homeless has been adopted as a national model in more than 170 jurisdictions in the U.S and has also been implemented in Canada and Australia.
About Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health plan dedicated to providing Californians with access to high quality care at a reasonable price. Founded in 1939, it now has 3.4 million members, 4,500 employees, one of the largest provider networks and more than 20 office locations, providing a wide range of commercial and government products throughout the state. The company has contributed more than $100 million during the past three years to the Blue Shield of California Foundation to fund nonprofit organizations that improve access to quality health care in California. Contact your local agent or broker for more information about Blue Shield products and services, or visit the Blue Shield web site at http://www.blueshieldca.com.
The San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) is renowned for its state-of-the-art acute medical, neurological, surgical and psychiatric care. The Medical Center has 124 operating beds and a 120-bed Nursing Home Care Unit. Primary and mental health care is provided at community based outpatient clinics in: Santa Rosa, Eureka, Ukiah, and San Bruno. There is a specialized homeless veterans clinic in downtown San Francisco.
SFVAMC has the largest funded research programs in the Veterans Health Administration with $78 million annual research budget. It is one of the few medical centers in the world equipped for studies using both whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy, and is the site of VA's National Center for the Imaging of Neurological Diseases.
The Medical Center has been affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), School of Medicine for nearly 40 years. All physicians are jointly recruited by SFVAMC and UCSF School of Medicine. SFVAMC has 153 residency and fellow positions and 40 allied health professionals. More than 700 UCSF trainees from 34 programs rotate through the Medical Center.
About Swords to Plowshares
War causes wounds and suffering that last beyond the battlefield. Swords to Plowshares' mission is to heal the wounds, to restore dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency to all veterans in need, and to significantly reduce homelessness and poverty among veterans. Founded in 1974, Swords to Plowshares is a community-based, not-for-profit organization that provides counseling and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to more than 1500 homeless and low-income veterans annually in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. We promote and protect the rights of veterans through advocacy, public education, and partnerships with local, state, and national entities.