According to the Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau
A common theme in listening sessions was the perception that existing programs/services for veterans favor men. Participants believed that many seemingly gender-neutral programs failed to ensure equality in the level and types of assistance provided to men and women. The top priorities of the women veterans were achieving independence, finding permanent housing, obtaining education/training and employment, meeting their financial obligations, and fulfilling their parental responsibilities. They sought resources and programs to facilitate achieving these goals. The women Veterans expressed a desire for sex-segregated residential centers staffed by qualified individual’s sensitive to the female veteran culture. Women, especially those with a history of MST and domestic violence, report feeling more secure and comfortable in a female-only environment. Single-sex housing and treatment arrangements may facilitate recovery for women. Locating centers in safer residential areas, away from drug dealers and violence, is also essential. The listening session participants emphasized the need for programs targeting homeless women veterans “that are more proactive than reactive.” Preventing homelessness, such as providing rent assistance and other support, is more accessible than dealing with the problem later.
50,000 veterans who are homeless and 1.4 million who are considered at risk of homelessness on any given day, due to poverty, lack of support networks, and marginal living conditions in substandard housing, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
They, and all those who put on the uniforms of our nation’s armed services, sacrifice so much to defend the freedoms that we all enjoy and take for granted. Far too many, however, come home unable to defend themselves from the ravages of combat.
The U.S. Census Bureau counts 3.6 million veterans with a service-related disability. A significant percentage are victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. It is estimated that at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and 30% of Vietnam war veterans suffer from these issues.
These veterans also have alarmingly high rates of depression, unemployment, divorce, substance abuse and other problems, making them all the more vulnerable to homelessness. Female veterans, in particular, are confronted with additional problems, including family reunification issues.
Yet, there is a lack of tailored programs for the growing percentage of female homeless veterans. More than 280,00in Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas, which is more than seven times the number of women who served in the Gulf War and almost 26 times the number of women who served in Vietnam.
According to HUD, nearly 10% of homeless veterans are female, and that number is expected to rise as more women serve and then return home from their deployment. Many of these women are single parents of young children – the Department of Defense reported in 2010 that 30,000 females who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were single mothers – and the Department of Veterans Affairs found that about 20% of female Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are victims of military sexual assault.
Providing shelter to our female – and male – veterans is not enough; it is simply one step. The transition from soldier to civilian is often the most difficult part of a veteran’s life. Yet the hardships of going from combat to job application, mortgage payments and working a typical 9-to-5 job, far too often are after-thoughts on the post-military agenda. It is no wonder that long after their active tours, many veterans continue to fight to reclaim their health and well-being.
The Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) collaborated five years ago on a grand proposal to end homelessness among the military veteran population by 2015. Since that time, substantial funding has been allocated, and programs have been established in partnership with the VA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and non-government organizations across the country toward achieving this ambitious goal.
On December 23, 2011, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported, “More than 60 percent of surveyed Grant Per Diem (GPD) programs that serve homeless women veterans did not house children, and most programs that did house children had restrictions on the ages or numbers of children. In our survey, GPD providers cited a lack of housing for women with children as a significant barrier to accessing veteran housing. In addition, several noted there were financial disincentives for providers, as VA does not have the statutory authority to reimburse them for costs of housing veterans’ children. Limited housing for women and their children puts these families at risk of remaining homeless”. “A recent report from the VA inspector general examined veteran housing receiving VA grants found bedrooms and bathrooms without locks, poorly lit hallways and women housed in facilities approved for men only. Nearly a third of the 26 facilities reviewed didn’t have adequate safety precautions. For example, 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.” – AP.