Thursday, August 13, 2009
Female Veteran Homeless Numbers on Rise
More female veterans are winding up homeless
WASHINGTON - The number of female service members who have become homeless after leaving the military has jumped dramatically in recent years, according to new government estimates, presenting the Veterans Administration with a challenge as it struggles to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Homelessness a problem for women veterans
WASHINGTON -- When Debra Filter enlisted in the Army in 1978 as a 22-year-old high school graduate, she saw it as a way to escape childhood abuse, get an education, and see the world.
She didn't get what she signed up for.
On the night of her graduation from basic training, Filter said several fellow soldiers raped her. The next day, her drill sergeant told her, in front of the rest of her platoon, that she ought to be ashamed of herself.
Aid Sought for Homeless Female Vets
Caroline Contreras says a rape at Fort Dix, N.J., 20 years ago derailed her military career and sent her on an inexorable path of addiction and homelessness.
But what the 48-year-old veteran says she remembers most painfully is how her government let her down when she finally sought help.
Last year, Contreras showed up at the U.S. Veterans Administration facility in West Haven homeless and ready to sober up and deal with the trauma of the sexual assault by fellow servicemen.
She completed the VA's substance abuse treatment program, restored her self-worth after working with a therapist and shed her destructive coping skills. When she was ready to leave the program to rebuild her life, the VA had no place to send her.
Women-only shelter beds in the state were full. Transitional housing wasn't available. The best the VA could offer her was a bus ticket to a shelter in Massachusetts.
"It brought me back to the way I felt when I was raped," Contreras said. "I was insignificant. I wasn't worthy. No matter what I did, I couldn't get the respect of a male veteran."
Findings from Yale School of Medicine:
About a quarter of homeless female veterans have young children in their care. PTSD in these mothers is associated with poorer mental health and lower school attendance for their young children both at baseline and over a one-year period.