Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – Acknowledging Homeless Women Veterans
Posted by danielleac on January 2, 2012
Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories. If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Acknowledging Homeless Women Veterans
by Debbie Metcalf (as printed in the Asheville Citizen-Times)
The horrible situation of being homeless — not having a place to call your own, to lay down in your own bed, make coffee in your own kitchen, and play with your kids in your own den — is made worse if you’re a homeless female veteran, by feelings of embarrassment for being in that situation and anger for having faithfully served our country and still not have a home when you get out.
They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying goals for their lives and differing ideas on how to best attain them. Some of these women are mothers with dependent children to care for. Some are going to school to further their education and increase their work skills. Some of these women are victims of sexual harassment and abuse while serving in the military. Some are addicts and alcoholics. Some are religious and some are not. Some are gay and some are straight. Their lives are as varied as ours.
But their life experiences are very different from ours in that they are experiencing a form of betrayal that most of us have never known. They came home from service in the military to a society that seems to ignore the fact that women have played a vital role in the U.S. armed services for many decades. And contrary to popular thought, women have always been exposed to and participated in very dangerous situations in the military. These women have been injured and experienced loss and sadness while working to serve their country, just as the male veterans. Now, they are homeless.
Asheville is a great area to live and work. We have so many philanthropic organizations that assist people in need. I’m a proud native of Asheville. There are nonprofits dedicated to protecting our rivers, mountains, downtown, greenways, animals, civil rights, air. We have nonprofits to protect handicapped persons and victims of domestic violence, rape, PTSD, child abuse, hate crimes. We also have nonprofits that offer assistance to homeless individuals. The problem in Asheville is that homeless male veterans have a specific place to call their own, whereas homeless female veterans do not have such a facility. The federal government has extended grants to nonprofits to assist homeless veterans in our area. The males have the Veterans Restoration Center at Oteen that houses only male veterans. The women, however, are allocated only 10 beds at the Steadfast House, a homeless shelter that houses all homeless women. Many homeless female veterans are discouraged to accept this housing because of the stringent interviewing process that many feel discriminates against them. These female veterans are also many times left out of the loop about veteran issues and programs available to assist women to achieve their goals in becoming self-sufficient. The homeless female veterans in our area need a transitional facility that serves only veterans and provides information related to their veteran status. It’s only fair.
Homeless female veterans have unique experiences and needs from the general homeless female population. We are committed to doing what we can to bring greater equality for these women. They deserve a group working for them, since they are being short-changed by the existing organizations that are funded to assist homeless vets. It’s the age-old problem of sexism in our society. Women who have served in the military are victims of a patriarchal culture that devalues their worth, minimizing their involvement in the service of our country. We need to stand up for these voiceless women who are living at the mercies of a patriarchal organization and get them some real help; the kind of help that will get them out of their current situation and into a place of their own. They have much to offer society. But first we need to offer them a hand-up so they can get their lives back in order.These women need clothes to wear to job interviews. They need transportation to appointments and sometimes assistance completing applications for housing, food assistance, school, employment. They need a safe and comfortable place to sleep at night, until they can get a permanent place of their own. We are working to make that happen.
For more information on the effort to end homelessness among the women veteran population in Asheville, contact Debbie at email@example.com