Swords to Plowshares

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Swords to Plowshares is a veterans organization that provides job training, housing, and benefits advocacy to low income and homeless U.S. military veterans. Swords to Plowshares also operates a drop-in center for veterans requiring emergency services, and engages in policy work.[1] It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, supported by governmental and private grants, as well as donations from individuals.[2] Michael Blecker is the Executive Director.



Swords to Plowshares was founded in 1974 by six veterans who had been assigned as VISTA volunteers to work in Bay Area Veterans Administration (VA) facilities. They became concerned that the VA was not properly addressing the needs of returning Vietnam veterans.[3] Within four years, Swords to Plowshares became the first organization certified by the Veterans Administration to represent U.S. military veterans seeking compensation.

The organization began to raise awareness of, and advocate for, veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD and exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, resulting in Swords to Plowshares accepting a federal grant for veteran service agencies representing veterans who suffered health disorders as a consequence of Agent Orange exposure.[4]


Recognizing the over-representation of veterans among San Francisco's homeless population, Swords to Plowshares began to offer a transitional housing program in 1988. This program became a model for transitional housing nationally. During the same period of skyrocketing homelessness, Swords to Plowshares also began offering emergency housing, mental health treatment, and social service referrals through its "drop-in" center in downtown San Francisco.

1990s to present[edit]

Swords to Plowshares continued to expand its veteran housing programs from 1998–2000 with the lease of a series of decommissioned military barracks in the San Francisco Presidio, which was termed "The Veterans Academy". This permanent supportive housing facility currently serves more than 100 veterans, offering a variety of vocational training and residential programs.

Legal cases[edit]

The Edgewood Arsenal case, VVA, et al. v. CIA, DOD, et al., is a class action lawsuit filed by Swords to Plowshares and Vietnam Veterans of California on behalf of veterans who were exposed to toxins, biological and nerve agents, and mind-altering drugs during military experiments that began in the 1950s.[5] Gordon Erspamer, senior litigation counsel in the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster, which is representing Swords to Plowshares and Vietnam Veterans of California's clients, alleges that US soldiers were, at the Edgewood facility northeast of Baltimore, Maryland, secretly subject to a series of CIA mind-control experiments related to those known as MK Ultra. The veterans "volunteered" for human experimentation programs but weren't informed of the nature of the experiments, weren't given the awards they were promised, and weren't properly cared for afterward.[6] The plaintiffs demand details of the experiments, the awards and follow-up health care they deserve; and for the government to supply details to the VA to support claims for their service-connected disabilities.[7]


  1. ^ "Programs". stp-sf.org/supportvets. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  2. ^ "2009 Annual Report" (PDF). stp-sf.org/supportvets. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  3. ^ "Combat Fatigue". The American Prospect. June 23, 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  4. ^ "First of Agent Orange Grants Given to Veterans' Agencies". NY Times. April 1, 1989. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  5. ^ "Government Experiments on U.S. Soldiers: Shocking Claims Come to Light in New Court Case". AlterNet. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  6. ^ "VA named in lawsuit involving local veteran". http://www.jdnews.com. Retrieved July 20, 2010. External link in |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ "Pro Bono 2010: A Scene from the Manchurian Candidate". http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/. Retrieved July 20, 2010. External link in |publisher= (help)

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