Hope for the Holidays

COMING HOME: Tim Chapman, an Iraq War veteran, has been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Veteran struggles with home life

When Tim Chapman finished serving his country in the battlefields of Iraq and then helping his countrymen in the flooded streets of New Orleans, the Army soldier came home to his wife, to his home — and to undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.

The anxiety disorder, which can develop after a terrifying event or ordeal in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened, wreaked havoc on his life.

Before long, he’d lost his wife, he’d lost his home, and he was living on the streets of San Francisco addicted to meth.

It wasn’t until his ruthless addiction finally sent him to the San Francisco Veterans Administration hospital that he began getting back on his feet. He was diagnosed with PTSD and hooked up with Swords to Plowshares, a Bay Area nonprofit that helps veterans transition to civilian life.

Then, after being employed and off drugs for almost two years, he moved from Treasure Island to a transitional housing project in the Tenderloin — a neighborhood filled with ubiquitous drug transactions that proved too difficult for Chapman to resist. He relapsed, and lost his job and his home once again.

Six months ago, he decided to give another shot to stabilizing his life. He moved out of the Tenderloin, got clean, and enrolled in college on the GI bill. Just last week, he finished his first semester of college ever — with straight As.

“I’ve never had an A before, not in high school, not in elementary school, not ever,” he said. “So to go to college and get an A is a huge deal for me.”

This Christmas, Chapman will spend the holiday with his family for the first time in a long while.

“Christmas has always been an issue for me,” he said. “It hasn’t always been the greatest. Normally I like to spend Christmas by myself, but this year, I’m going to try to turn it around, and make the holidays a new, positive experience for me.”

Helping out: Ericka Green, left, has managed to

create a successful business in the wake of personal tragedy.

Victim helps families get on their feet

Ericka Green was pregnant with her second child when her husband was violently murdered while he was visiting family in San Francisco’s Sunnydale Housing projects.

She was still in deep grief later that year, when she was shopping for clothes for her new baby girl, and realized that she couldn’t afford any of the garments in the store.

“I just had a breakdown in the store, wondering who was going to help me with my kids and the simple things they’d need, like clothes,” she said.

The experience inspired Green to put her “entrepreneur hat on.” She traveled to the garment district in Los Angeles and purchased clothes for her children; to help her afford them, she bought more clothes than she needed at discounted rates, brought them back, and sold them to other families.

The enterprise was so popular that after two years, she opened a store called “His Kids” in the Crocker Galleria in downtown San Francisco.

This week, Green, her 7-year-old son, and her 5-year-old daughter joined other family, friends and supporters for a small Christmas celebration in the store.

She has also started donating clothes to needy families.

“Our goal with the store is to have the means to be a blessing for other families, and give clothes to people who have experienced what I’ve experienced,” she said.

Whatever she can give: Ieeshea Romero teaches her children to appreciate the things they have.

Single mom revels in the simple joys

There were no Christmas trees in Ieeshea Romero’s childhood, except those seen on TV and in the occasional friend’s home.

Her mother was a drug addict and rarely home; her father was absent as well.  Both died while she was still young.

“I never experienced what most children do as far as parents and trees and gifts, so it was something I always wanted to have when I had children,” Romero said.

Today, Romero still doesn’t have much, but she manages nonetheless to make Christmas special for her children. Romero is the first in her family to graduate from college and is now studying for a master’s degree in Business Administration at Mills College. She also works at Bayview Magic a neighborhood-based nonprofit that offers support and services to youth and families.

While she doesn’t have much money to spend on presents this year, Romero has a few small ones planned, and thanks to a friend, took her children to see “A Christmas Carol” at the American Conservatory Theater last week.

She believes Christmas should be as much about giving back as it should be about receiving, so she and her children go through the family’s old toys to decide what they can give away each year. 

“I told my daughter we might not have much for gifts this year, and she said to me, ‘It’s OK. Santa is going to visit the people who are less fortunate than we are,’” Romero said.


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