Veteran Gives Back to Homeless
June 1, 2022Jim Oswald

Jerry is a Navy veteran and a guy who will give you the shirt off his back.

Jerry is retired, and one of his main activities is community outreach for the homeless in San Francisco. Jerry has given out sandwiches (mostly PB&J), clothes, and other essential items to homeless people in Fisherman’s Wharf for several years. On Easter, he adds Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs.

“When I’m helping people, I feel so good.”

Taking Steps Towards Physical Recovery

Meeting Jerry outside a coffee shop, it is easy to connect with his enthusiasm and his love of San Francisco. “I’m lucky. What a wonderful place to live,” he says.

But the past few years have been difficult.

Jerry had back surgery about 20 years ago during his successful career in real estate financing. The 2008 recession impacted his business especially hard, and his back troubles became debilitating. He became isolated in his third-floor apartment. It was just too painful to go down the stairs.

Jerry was able to get In-House Primary Care through the VA, including checkups and physical therapy. But he was still unable to leave his apartment for five years. “The only thing that kept me sane was my good attitude and Meals on Wheels.”

Surgery was not an option. It would be risky, and the odds were that it wouldn’t help that much.

As Jerry tells his story, he ultimately tells his nurse, “I gotta get down the stairs. I don’t care what I have to do.”

So, the VA connected him with a specialist who worked with him on strategies to help him get out of the house. It was a lot of work, but he persevered and is now re-engaging with his community.

Jerry credits Meals on Wheels San Francisco for their support, especially during that difficult time of isolation. All of the people in his building are also veterans who receive Meals on Wheels. He especially appreciates the small touches like notes from volunteers. “You [Meals on Wheels] just make the person feel special,” he said.

He added that he loves the new menu items recently introduced by Chef Richard and his team. “I have noticed a wonderful positive change to the cuisine. And some of your selections for the new items are just fantastic.”


These days, Jerry is mindful of keeping a positive attitude. “I’m really in the moment and enjoying everything,” he said. “I’m enjoying that beautiful dog running. The birds chirping…. Two weeks ago, these trees out here were blooming. They’re so beautiful.”

During his years in seclusion, Jerry turned to daily positive affirmations. “I do gratitude lists; the most important thing in my life is gratitude.”

He especially likes to listen to Deepak Chopra. “I listen to him for a couple of minutes, and I have to put it on pause because I have to absorb.” He doesn’t want to waste that moment of connection, he says.

“I have friends I’ve met throughout America through Instagram and TikTok. Positive people, I don’t want grumpies. I don’t want resentment.”

Jerry is grateful to Meals on Wheels and its staff, volunteers, and donors.

“Given a long sample size that I’ve had—which is several years—from the very start, I have been very impressed with (Meals on Wheels), with their attitude, with their food. In general, it has enhanced and elevated the quality of my life on many levels.

“They care about me. They take the time to acknowledge me as a person, not just with their food, but with their attitude when they greet me each week. I look forward to them coming every week. It’s a wonderful organization, and I highly recommend it.”

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