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21st July
2011
written by Catherine An

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor released a guide intended to improve services delivered to women veterans experiencing homelessness. The guide, called “Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers” includes sections illustrating the experiences and needs of female veterans, describing trauma-informed care in homeless service settings, and a tool called the Organizational Self-Assessment for Providers.

Right off the bat, the guide offers background on women’s present – and growing – participation in the armed forces. According to the report:

  • Female service members are 14 percent of the active duty force and 18 percent of the National Guard and Reserve.
  • 11 percent of female service members are single parents; 4 percent of male service members are single parents.
  • Female veterans are four times more likely to a) identify themselves as a racial minority, b) have lower incomes, c) be unemployed, and d) younger than their male counterparts.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that the number of female veterans will grow from 1.8 million (8.2 percent of all veterans) to 2.1 million in 2010 (15.2 percent of all veterans) by 2036.

As the title suggests, the guide emphasizes the impact of trauma – both during and not during service – as a risk factor for experiencing homelessness. Military sexual trauma (MST) and service-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are specifically identified, as well as trauma experienced during childhood and adolescence.

While trauma and the resulting behaviors and limitations trauma may cause can be risk factors to homelessness, female veterans also experience a variety of other challenges that jeopardize their housing stability.

In the report, “Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans,” the Alliance identified a number of factors that could increase the risk of homelessness for women veterans. Factors include:

  • Female veterans are more likely to have lower incomes than their male counterparts.
  • Female veterans are more to be divorced and more likely to have children than their male counterparts.
  • 13 percent of female veterans experience severe housing cost burden (paying 50+ percent of the monthly income on rent) as compared to 10 percent of male veterans; of those female veterans who experience severe housing cost burden, 59 percent fall b elow the poverty level.

While the population of female veterans, and female veterans experiencing homelessness, is small and the data limited, it’s clear that this is an emerging issue needing study and consideration. For more information about veteran homelessness, please visit the Alliance website.

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