Last time, House the Homeless blog looked at the situation of women veterans who somehow find themselves without any place to live, which is something for America to really hang its head in shame about. To make it worse, women vets are confronted by a different set of risks and needs than the ones that male vets have to contend with.
One of the female vets interviewed by Eric Tucker and Kristin M. Hall for the Associated Press fell into a pattern of heavy drinking because of the culture of her particular branch of service. A diabetic Navy veteran staying in a typical inner-city shelter had the hypodermic needles stolen, that she used for insulin injections. More than half of the programs that serve homeless women in general do not offer housing for children.
For CBN News, Charlene Israel learned:
A new report from the VA Office of the Inspector General found bedrooms and bathrooms in temporary VA shelters for vets with no locks, poorly lit hallways and women housed in facilities approved for men only… One female veteran and her 18-month-old son were placed in the same facility as a male veteran who was a registered sex offender.
But the news isn’t all bad. There is a special government office whose job is to assist veteran families that are experiencing homelessness who are at risk. Its name matches its description, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF). Funding actually goes to private nonprofit groups and consumer co-ops, who provide services such as outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining benefits from the Veterans Administration and other agencies.
The goal is to get these veteran families hooked up with health care, financial planning, viable transportation, child care for people looking for jobs or lucky enough to find them, help with their legal problems and, of course, help with getting a roof over their heads. As its literature describes, SSVF also authorizes its grantees to pass payment along to third parties like landlords, moving companies, and utilities, if it looks like the family will be able to start rowing its own boat pretty soon.
Jackie Campbell, a Navy reservist who knows what it’s like to be homeless, opened a transitional housing facility where the rent is as low as possible. The “Lady Vets Haven” has a Facebook page and describes itself thusly:
The home serves as a clean and safe environment for female veterans. Women are invited to stay as long as they need to and are offered a variety of services such as job counseling, group and individual counseling and spiritual encouragement.
Another place founded by a veteran whose personal experience included a spell of homelessness, is Final Salute in Fairfax, Virginia. Army Captain Jasmine Boothe came to the conclusion that “No one is really looking out for women veterans,” as she told reporter Kali Schumitz. Boothe, a single mother, was the victim of both Hurricane Katrina and cancer.
Schumitz tells us:
The biggest obstacle facing the thousands of homeless female veterans, as compared to male veterans, is most of the housing programs established for veterans do not allow children.
The large house is shared among five female veterans, some with children, at a cost of $65,000 per year. Surprisingly, there are only about 20 women on the waiting list for this “starting-over” situation. But maybe the administrators limit the waiting list, in order not to instill false hope in too many women who actually don’t have a chance of getting in any time soon.
Planning for the Webb House in Gary, Indiana, began back in 2009. There are other Webb Houses in nearby counties, but the one in Gary is actually a renovated apartment.
The facility was dedicated to local hero Jeanette Winters, the first female Marine fatality of the Afghanistan war. The staff of Webb House, Inc. works with the VA and Disabled American Veterans to aid with not only housing, but with the psychological needs of veterans. They even helped to establish a special veterans’ court for those whose scrapes with the law are complicated by PTSD or other problems particular to vets.
A very complete picture of federal services for those who served is found in a General Accounting Office report titled “Homeless Women Veterans: Actions Needed to Ensure Safe and Appropriate Housing,” available as a PDF download. But we must remember: Even if we search and find every female veteran and are able to provide the best of all of these services, if they end up in jobs that pay less than a living wage they will only end up swelling the ranks of the homeless.
All people experiencing homelessness are at risk for adverse events that housed people can’t even imagine. In Austin, the current important project is a shelter for women. Please learn more and do what you can, starting with this page.
Source: “More women vets are homeless, but housing scarce,” Boston.com, 04/08/12
Source: “Female Vets Fight Personal Wars of Homelessness, Abuse,” CBN.com, 05/29/12
Source: “Supportive Services for Veteran Families,” VA.gov, 2012
Source: “Final Salute offers housing to homeless female veterans,” The Washington Post, 05/15/12
Source: “Webb House, Inc. to participate in South Shore Air Show’s charity event ,” NWITimes, 06/22/12
Source: “Homeless Women Veterans: Actions Needed to Ensure Safe and Appropriate Housin,” (PDF), GAO.gov, December 2011
Image by MichiganMoves (Debra Drummond), used under its Creative Commons license.