158. Women Veterans and Homelessness

This week Lt.Gen Ann .E Dunwoody has been nominated as a Four Star General in the Army. If confirmed she will be the first female Four Star General in American history.The nomination of a woman for this senior military position is a landmark event in the history of our military services. This accomplishment is one of extreme dedication to the service of this country.  While this news celebrates the accomplishments of  females in the military, another story reveals what a high price some pay for their loyalty to our country. A friend of Wanderingvets recently shared an article that spotlighted  another glimpse into females in our military~ this one is about  female veterans who find themselves homeless.


There are an estimated 8,000-12,000  female veterans who find themselves without homes in our country (which is probably a low number given current tracking systems greatly underestimate all numbers of homeless veterans.)  Female veterans comprise 4% of the homeless population compared to 40% of homeless males being veterans.


As a result of more females enrolling in the military and being on the front lines of operations, the number of homeless woman veterans is rising. Women in the military is not something new .  Females in the military go back to the time of the civil war when females were recruited as nurses to take care of  injured soldiers. There were also some documented reports of females dressing as men who fought in combat along side men for their country during the civil war, as well as reports of female spies. Throughout the various military conflicts of the US woman served in the military largely as nurses and were otherwise prohibited from active combat positions by all branches of the military. In 1994 all combat positions were opened to woman. Currently there are about 200,000 females enrolled in active duty in all branches of the military.


With females engaging in front line combat they enter the risk of incurring all the injuries of their male counterparts~PTSD,Depression,Traumatic Head Injury & Anxiety disorders.( a recent post about the mental health of our veterans can be read here)  But there seems to be another risk unique to females in the military~the disruption of family ties for those with children and family adds yet another “trauma” to the list for many women. It’s so easy for civilians to forget that our military personnel are often deployed for months on end and recently are being asked to engage in back to back deployments which takes time away from children & family. Once back home females can find reentry into their family roles difficult especially with the combat related injuries that they bring home from war. Without support services that address the special needs of the female veteran some find themselves not able to cope and  homelessness  becomes a reality.


Many VA Health sources report that female veterans returning from active duty incur greater psychiatric illnesses than their male counterparts as they transition back into the civilian populations. For women, PTSD can come from not just combat trauma, but also sexual violence experienced in the military.  Accounts of sexual harassment & assaults have been on the rise in the military over the past few years.  


The Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates that 39 percent of the women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will have some sort of mental health disorder, said Katherine Dong, women’s veterans program manager at the North Chicago VA.

“With this particular war, there are no safe jobs, there’s no front line, every soldier in danger,” Dong said. “Everyone has witnessed bombs and explosions of some type.”


Once a female veteran finds herself homeless there are other stressors that she must face on a daily basis.  Our homeless female vets face daily traumas such as struggling to meet basic survival needs and living with ongoing dangers and threats. The streets are not the place to put any veteran much less those who are trying to heal from their psychological wounds ,especially female veterans with custody of  children. Due to the shortage of shelters to house the growing numbers of homeless in our country, about 44% of the homeless will find themselves without shelter on any given night. When people live without shelter they are at risk for various “hate crimes” that can prove fatal. (National Homeless Org.)


Our female veterans share  many of the long term consequences that their male counterparts face as a result of serving our country.  In addition, there are unique stressors that have an influence on the psychiatric illnesses of female vets.We fail in our support to all our military personnel when we allow any of our veterans to face homelessness.



1 Response to “158. Women Veterans and Homelessness”

  1. 1 bikerbernie
    April 19, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Wanting equal rights women must be held accountable to the same standards as men. They should not be able to have longer hair, and if they try to opt out of combat because of being a mom or becoming pregnant . . . well you can read the rest at the link provided . . .



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