Read the latest article in BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.
I’ve been part of a spirituality group since I moved to Virginia two years ago. At one session, I proclaimed to the group that I was interested in social change but not inclined to open my house to a homeless person. Within the year, I had a chance to eat those words.
One of the group members sent an email asking if anyone had space for a woman who was living in her car. We had a spare room, which is how I met. She was a former military spouse who worked as a contractor but lost her source of income when her contract was cancelled. So Lynn and then her cat (who was evicted from a foster home) came to live with us for four months. During the time she was with us, I introduced Lynn to a college friend, Mary, who provided an insider referral to Mary’s company. Lynn was hired and works for the company to this day.
No matter what your age, educational credentials, or even security clearance (important for employment in DC), many people don’t have the financial cushion to deal with emergencies or loss of income. When you aren’t sure where you’re going to spend the night, it’s hard to focus on much else. Veterans seem to be facing homelessness at a higher rate than the US population at large and women veterans are experiencing an even harder time finding secure housing.
There is no single reason why homelessness is more of an issue for veterans. It may be that they have no family safety net. Many young adults end up living with their parents after they college or if they find themselves between jobs. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, homelessness results when individuals cannot resolve life’s basic issues without assistance. Generally, these problems fall into three categories: health issues, economic hardships, and lack of affordable housing.
While BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ is focused on helping with career transitions and advancement for women veterans and military spouses, our mentors are aware that you can’t concentrate on revising your resume when you are sleeping in your car. In developing Mentoring Plus, we are linking with organizations that help house and outfit women veterans. Since launching the program in January, we have been affililiating with resource and community partners who can help veterans. Some DC-based Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ partners include Final Salute and Women Veterans Interactive (WVI). As WVI CEO, Ginger Miller, said, “Our goal is to serve the whole women veteran by meeting her at her point of need.”
The core competency of BPW Foundation is Working•Women•Helping•Women•Work, not homelessness, but we have connections with partners who have special expertise in a variety of areas including housing. Some resources for homeless vets in the DC metro area include: Doorways for Women and Families: http://www.doorwaysva.org/, New Hope Housing: http://www.newhopehousing.org/?page_id=163, and Northern Virginia Family Service: http://www.nvfs.org/ .
While the government provides a safety net for when things go wrong, each of us has the ability to be of service. We are not asking you to open your house, but to reach out a hand. How can you help? Give back to those who have given much. Consider sharing your expertise by becoming a mentor to a woman veteran or military spouse. BPW’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ program provides training and tools to help you be a successful mentor. Check out the Mentoring Plus website and sign up. http://www.joiningforcesmentoringplus.org/ Also, connect with us on social media: BPW Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ LinkedIn. Join us on Facebook. Follow BPW on Twitter.
We can’t do everything, but we can do something. What will you do today?