In the 1980’s women Veterans comprised approximately 5% of the armed forces, by 2009 they comprised about 15% of the armed forces, and the number continues to grow. Sadly, some women return from their tour of duty and find themselves homeless or at high risk for becoming homeless. Some women Veterans who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) left behind children with family members or other caregivers; add combat exposure and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the mix, and women Veterans with children are particularly vulnerable to factors that lead to homelessness.
Recognizing this growing problem, VA BHS began providing services to homeless women Veterans in the greater Boston area in December of 2000. VA BHS’s Women Veteran’s Homelessness Program provides an array of services for women and their children, which includes:
• Referrals to furniture banks and food banks
• Accompany them to court for issues related to housing, substance abuse charges, etc.
• Referrals to specialists in the field of Domestic Violence for both women and their children
• Act as liaison to Veteran Services Officers and Department of Veterans Services to ensure that financial assistance is awarded
• Referrals to Veterans’ agencies for assistance with service connection disability process
• Assist veterans in paying down debt by requesting credit reports and advocating for veterans with collection agencies
• Assist Veterans in applying for SSDI, SSI, or DMH services
• Refer veterans to VA and non-VA employment opportunities
• Accompany women Veterans to recreational activities, luncheons, and conferences sponsored by agencies such as the Vet Center, Department of Veteran Services, and the Governor's Council on Women Veterans
Additional homeless services for women include referral to the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program (HCHV) at VA BHS providing women with other housing options. Also, the Department of Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Affairs Supported Housing Program (HUD/VASH), was created to assist and advocate for chronically homeless VA eligible Veterans (men and women) in the metropolitan Boston area to obtain “Housing Choice” Section 8 rental assistance vouchers. These vouchers will enable s and their children to live in their own apartments.
In addition to services for homeless women Veterans, VA BHS also offers several outpatient and residential services for all women Veterans:
• The Women's Stress Disorder Treatment Team provides assessment, and individual and group therapy for women with trauma histories.
• The team at the Women's Health Center provides women Veterans with medical services.
• The Women's Integrated Treatment and Recovery Program (at the Brockton campus) is a residential program for women with substance abuse and trauma histories.
• The Women's Trust House in the Boston area is a residential program whereby women Veterans are able to work, attend therapy, and live at a home in the community.
If you are a woman Veteran in need of these services or if you know a woman Veteran who could be helped by the services offered at VA BHS please call Lauren Dever, LICSW, Coordinator for the Women Veterans Homelessness Program at 857-364-4027.