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Sharon Foster, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2008 –
A San Francisco-based group has announced plans to open an employment and training office for Bay Area veterans. “We are opening this new satellite office in Oakland to make it easier for veterans to access veteran-specific employment and training services in their community,” explained Amy N. Fairweather, director of the Iraq Veteran Project for the “Swords to Plowshares” veteran support organization.
“We see a growing number of veterans in the East Bay, and we want to make employment and training services as convenient and accessible as possible,” she said.
The services offered at the Oakland office will include one-on-one employment counseling, interview coaching and assistance with job search and costs. The new office also will reach out to employers in the community and secure interviews for clients.
“We also hope to have our other service departments visit that office periodically to provide help with GI Bill and [Veterans Affairs Department] benefits,” Fairweather said.
Swords to Plowshares helps veterans with health and social services, transitional and permanent housing, employment and training and through its Iraq Veteran Project.
“We launched the Iraq Veteran Project in 2005 to better meet the needs of a new and unique population of post-9/11 veterans,” Fairweather said. The Iraq Veteran Project staff provides resources and referrals to veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and their families, including help with navigating educational benefits, accessing VA care and finding veterans services where they live, she added.
Michael Ergo, a former Marine sergeant, recently used the group’s employment training program to complete a paralegal certificate course at San Francisco State University.
“When I went in to see them, I asked if they had any legal training programs to put me in,” Ergo said. “They found the paralegal program within an hour. I was enrolled within a week. Swords to Plowshares definitely care about their clients. I got the impression that they were eager to help me and did not consider it a burden to serve me.”
A handful of Vietnam veterans established Swords to Plowshares in 1974. Today, a staff of 85 helps veterans with transitional and supportive housing, mental health care, employment and training, legal services and case management.
In additional to its local services, Swords to Plowshares now provides legal representation for VA claims and discharge review services to post-9/11 veterans regardless of where they live. The group also has developed military and veteran cultural competency training for clinicians and first responders to give them a basic understanding of resources and issues.
“Of course, we continue to provide our local services to veterans of all eras, but hope that by intervening as soon as possible, we will prevent this new generation of combat veterans from some of the suffering their chronically homeless predecessors continue to endure,” Fairweather said.