BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

This Thanksgiving, Let’s Support Our Women Veterans

Posted by sherrysaunders on November 23, 2010

Photo by CarbonNYC

By Deborah L. Frett
CEO, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation

Our collective images of Thanksgiving include a warm home, Mom, and of course the home cooked feast. We give thanks for being blessed with these wonderful comforts. During times of war, we are especially thankful to the women and men who so valiantly serve in the U.S. Armed Forces to defend our way of life. This Thanksgiving, as those collective images transform into real, individual memories of our mothers for so many of us, let us think about those women who have returned “home” only to find themselves and often their children, without a home at all.

In the past decade, 100,000 mothers have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. As these women return home, they too will be confronted with the very real challenge of identifying and maintaining suitable housing situations for their families. The numbers are not on their side. More than 100,000 homeless veterans live on our streets and 13,000 of them are women, many with children. Furthermore, while the overall number of homeless veterans is declining, the number of homeless women veterans is increasing. Women veterans are four times more likely than non-veteran women to experience homelessness.

Homelessness encompasses a variety of situations including the woman veteran on the park bench, the one in and out of temporary shelters, or the woman who holds a steady job but lives out of her car. Access to affordable, permanent housing remains veterans’ number one unmet need according to a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, solutions that focus on providing housing will only get us part way there. Because women veterans are the fastest growing veteran population, comprehensive and effective solutions must focus on addressing the issues that cause them to become homeless in the first place.

The underlying causes and circumstances for these disproportionate levels of homelessness are not well understood. Studies show several risk factors associated with homeless women veterans:  being unmarried, unemployed, disabled and having a history of sexual trauma. Homeless women veterans often have more severe mental health issues than veteran men, in part because they are more likely to experience military sexual assault (MST) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also less likely to seek medical assistance as they try to work through or deny their need for help, wanting to show the type of resiliency expected of them in their military service.

In October, BPW Foundation hosted the Inaugural Summit, Joining Forces for Women Veterans. This summit convened employers, policymakers, and community leaders, along with women veterans, to raise awareness and identify ways to address the particular and critical needs of women veterans. A major outcome of this Summit is BPW Foundation’s official launch of the Walk A Mile In Their Shoes campaign to support women veterans.

As children, our mothers would always remind us that we should ‘never judge a person until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes,’ a mantra that should still hold true today. This Thanksgiving, let us thank our women veterans by providing them with the support that they have worked so hard to earn. Remember that stepping into civilian shoes requires continued support for their journey. Please join us in making strides by giving to our Walk A Mile In Their Shoes campaign, and you’ll be giving more families of women veterans a chance to have their very own warm Thanksgiving memories to share.

Please click here for more information on the Walking a Mile In Their Shoes campaign.

For more information on Homelessness and Women Veterans read the BPW Foundation Issue Brief.

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