Formerly Berkeley Food & Housing Project

Cristina’s Story: One Veteran’s Experience

Cristina never thought she would face the prospect of living on the street. Born and raised in San Francisco, she served her country for over a decade: first on active duty in the U.S. Army, then in the Naval Reserves, and later as an AmeriCorps Vista participant.

After her honorable discharge, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology at San Francisco State University. During her time at SFSU, she became a member of various student organizations that helped with shaping and reforming how the curriculum could be more inclusive to all students. She then worked at various non-profit programs serving San Francisco’s at-risk communities.

What many people never knew was that during her military service, Cristina had been sexually assaulted by her drill sergeant. Cristina told us, “It destroyed my young life and killed my dreams of becoming an E-9 Army Sergeant Major.”

Only her closest family knew her secret, and they helped as best they could as she suffered from untreated PTSD symptoms for over 15 years. Cristina worked up the courage to share her story with a VA psychiatrist in 2004, but at that time, there were no VA classes or groups for women who experienced MST military sexual trauma. Cristina continued suffering alone.

Earlier this year, Cristina found herself struggling to keep up with constantly rising rent prices. She and her teenage son found themselves on the brink of homelessness.

Fortunately, the VA Behavioral Health Clinic in Sacramento referred Cristina to Berkeley Food & Housing Project. Her case manager quickly transitioned her into a hotel room so she and her son would not have to live on the streets while they worked to find a permanent home.

BFHP’s regional footprint played an important role in resolving her housing crisis, as Cristina’s top priority was moving out of Sacramento to Alameda to be closer to her family support system in San Francisco. With the help of her BFHP advocates, Cristina found a permanent home near her family and just five minutes away from her son’s school. She now has access to the housing assistance she is entitled to as a Veteran to help maintain her home and to raise her child in a peaceful and secure environment.

Cristina moved into her new home in October, and BFHP helped move her belongings from Sacramento to Alameda and purchased additional items for her. With her stability re-established, Cristina plans to reach out to other victims of Military Sexual Trauma to help them heal and be heard. She hopes her traumatic experience can be used for positive impact with her Veteran peers and she is dedicated to maintaining her own stability.

Last year, Berkeley Food and Housing Project served 1,353 U.S. veterans experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. Our outreach teams visit homeless encampments, public libraries, parks, and free meal programs to engage with Veterans and provide them a variety of programs including emergency, transitional, and permanent supportive housing, free meals, and employment services.  We are serving Veterans in seven local counites: Alameda, Amador, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, and launching in December, San Francisco.

As we recognize Veterans Day on November 11, please consider making a donation to support Veterans, like Cristina, and their families.

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