“War Zone/Comfort Zone” Shows Rising Homelessness for Women Vets

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May 27, 2013; Salon

One of the saddest news reports this past holiday weekend had to have been Lizzie Warren’s story in Salon about homeless women veterans. Based on a documentary she produced, Warren writes that, “while the problem among male veterans has dropped, homelessness among women veterans has risen sharply.” Warren described women veterans as “the fastest growing homeless population in the nation.”

Part of Warren’s story examines a proposed transitional housing facility for women veterans, a 15-bed facility in Connecticut that took four years to get developed against the opposition of neighbors in several towns. Earlier this month, the Home for the Brave Foundation gave up its plan to build a transitional facility for homeless women veterans in Delaware. As reported in the Delaware press, “In testifying against it, neighbors said the area was not served by public transportation or near any stores, and they worried the home’s presence would lower their own property values. Some said they also would be concerned about having their children play outside near the home.” The story of the Connecticut facility has been well documented in the press, including the story of its final approval.

Warren notes that women are 14 percent of active duty service members and 20 percent of the National Guard, but when they return from the military, “[w]omen veterans face a dense constellation of issues: low wages, a lack of childcare and family housing options, inadequate gender-specific services at the Veterans Administration and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat and Military Sexual Trauma.” She quotes Cynthia Enloe of Clark University, who says, “You come out of the Afghan or Iraqi war, as an American woman veteran, at a time when the housing market is terrible, the banks don’t trust you, and it’s hard to get a job, and you’ve experienced mental health issues as a result of what happened you in the military…It’s not any wonder that there so many women veterans now who are really suffering the loss of housing.”

Is this a problem peculiar to women veterans, in that it reflects how services for veterans are designed for men? Or does it reflect something deeper: a gap between this Memorial Day’s frequent statements of support for “our military heroes” and the lack of direct involvement of most Americans with today’s military. Since the end of the draft after the Vietnam War, the nation’s reliance on a volunteer military has meant that the percentage of the American public that has served on active duty has been low and dropping. As the chart below demonstrates, about 9 percent of Americans served in World War II, 2 percent in Korea, and somewhat less during the Vietnam War, but that dropped to 0.8 percent during the 1990-1991 Gulf War and around 0.5 percent since 9/11.


A Pew research survey of more than 1,800 post-9/11 veterans indicates that 44 percent say that they have had trouble readjusting to civilian life. Perhaps as a result of the decreased personal involvement of Americans with the military, 84 percent of modern-era veterans say “that the American public has little or no understanding of the problems that those in the military face,” according to Pew. The challenges for nonprofits serving homeless women veterans may start with the likelihood that few of us know women veterans in the first place.—Rick Cohen

  • JimS

    How does a Country HONOR It’s Fallen, by Their Own ‘Sacrifice’ in Taking Care of the Brothers and Sisters They Served With!!
    The Whole Country Served, Not Just The Many Caring Groups, with handfuls of members and volunteers, who have to fight for funding when successful and not getting grants, Within!!

    “If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too — not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American.” -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

    Rachel Maddow: ‘Obama indicates beginning of end of war on terror’, “We got a huge round of tax cuts in this country a few weeks before9/11. Once 9/11 happened and we invaded Afghanistan, we kept the tax cuts anyway.
    How did we think we were going to pay for that war? Did we think it was free?
    Then, when we started a second simultaneous war in another country, we gave ourselves a second huge round of tax cuts. After that second war started. The wars, I guess, we thought would be free, don`t worry about it, civilians. Go about your business.” 23 May 2013

    “Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013


    Prior too this present Executive and Veterans Administrations and just touching on the problems:

    Army Times Oct. 16, 2008 – VA claims found in piles to be shredded

    CNN iReport October 25, 2008 – House Vets’ Committee To Probe VA Shredder Scandal

    Tampa Bay Times Oct 27, 2008 – Hundreds of VA documents improperly shredded, review finds {Tampa Bay Times search page and series of articles}

    CBS News February 11, 2009 – Veterans’ Claims Found in Shredder Bins

    And more disturbing in relation to even before and through the early years of the Afghanistan, quickly abandoned missions of, and Iraq occupations, this:

    ProPublica and The Seattle Times Nov. 9, 2012 – Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans
    “DeLara’s case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War.”

    Add in the issues of finally recognizing in War Theater and more Veterans, by this Veterans Administration and the Executive Administrations Cabinet, what the Country choose to ignore from our previous decades and wars of: The devastating effects on Test Vets and from PTS, Agent Orange, Homelessness, more recent the Desert Storm troops Gulf War Illnesses, Gulf War Exposures with the very recent affects from In-Theater Burn Pits and oh so so much more! Tens of Thousands of Veterans’ that have been long ignored and maligned by previous VA’s and the whole Country and through their representatives!

    These present wars have yet to be paid for! Rubber stamping and rapid deficits rising started before 9/11 and continued with same for the wars. But especially in the early some six years of extremely little being added to the Veterans Administration budgets by those Congresses, and since obstructed by same war rubber stampers, as to the long term results of War, DeJa-Vu all over again.

    “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

    USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71