President Barack Obama has vowed to end chronic homelessness among the nation's veterans by the year 2015. San Francisco has taken a step towards that ambitious goal with a project that should be ready to open in the next couple of weeks. Veterans are counting the days.
The renovated building South of Market offers the first housing of its kind in San Francisco in more than a decade. Bruce Cramer can't wait to move in.
"It'll give me a place to settle down and a place to start my life over; it's kind of been a long road," he said.
Cramer is a Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War. He's been homeless off and on for years and with a bad back and other challenges, life has been difficult on the streets and in shelters.
Now he is slated to become one of 75 military veterans who will move into brand new studio apartments with on-site supportive services, including a medical clinic. The average age of the residents is 60. All have been chronically homeless and all have disabilities.
"This gives them a safe place to be; even if they are in a shelter or an emergency SRO in the Tenderloin, they are very vulnerable to predators, vulnerable to you name it," Swords to Plowshares CEO leon Winston said. "Here they'll be safe."
The place is called Veterans Commons and it was developed by the veterans' organization Swords to Plowshares and the Chinatown Community Development Center. About $30 million in local, state and federal money as well as private donations paid for the project.
Ronald Jones believes being with other veterans will offer a built in support system as he battles to stay clean and sober.
"I can relate to other vets because we've been through a lot of the same things," he said.
The Veterans Administration estimates there are 1,500 homeless veterans in San Francisco; 400 of them applied for the 75 slots of new housing.