2016 / Editorial / Photo Essay
Missing in Action: Homeless Women Veterans
Mary F. Calvert
Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in the United States and are four times more likely to become homeless than civilian women. Women who have survived Military Sexual Trauma are the most hidden population of homeless women and often flounder in unsafe relationships, live in their cars or endure drug-infested motels to avoid shelters or the street.
Although the Pentagon recently paved the way for women to serve in combat positions, the US Military has a long way to go. Women are under-represented in the upper ranks and many who signed up for a military career are getting out due to dashed hopes of career advancement and high levels of harassment and sexual assault. Women who courageously served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan have arrived home with healthcare issues including Military Sexual Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to scattered families, jobs that no longer exist, an impotent Department of Veteranâ€™s Affairs and to a nation who favors their male counterparts.
The challenges for women veterans are unique and difficult to address, especially when programs for vets seldom meet the needs of mothers and many homeless women vets happen to be single parents.
Women have to leave their children in the care of family members or friends when they deploy and many face custody battles when the stress of deployment tears their families apart. Many of these women escaped a difficult situation by joining the military and when they get out find them unable to cope with the stresses of unemployment and a weak economy.