Not everyone realizes this, but shelters helping homeless or disabled veterans tend to be segregated by gender. In the State of New York there are only TWO shelters for homeless female veterans outside of New York City. TWO. That’s ONE and ONE.
Furthermore, there is a special kind of suffering that goes with being a female veteran. Lauren Dever, Coordinator for the Boston-based Women Veterans Homelessness Program, has commented on the issue, outlining three main features that “are unique to women”:
- Female Veterans are far more likely than males to be raising a child alone. When we provide services to women we need to do a better job of also providing care options for her children. This is something that we have been working on in a couple of new programs. If a woman has to choose between getting the care and support she needs and being with her children, we aren’t giving her much of a choice.
- Military sexual trauma is far more common than any of us would like it to be and it is a major source of mental health and psychological issues for the women we treat. Military Sexual Trauma can create Post Traumatic Stress Disorder like symptoms as well as trust and relationship building issues, employability problems, an unwillingness to seek care, and more complex issues like substance abuse and self-harm.
- Women don’t self-identify as Veterans to the degree men do, so they are sometimes harder to find and can be harder to serve through traditional VA pipelines.
In 2012 The Invisible War was released, an award-winning documentary film chronicling the issue of abuse against women in the military. The issues cut deep, and often the government simply doesn’t care enough to help. Two groups trying to help are The Guardian House, a shelter operated by the Rural Preservation Company in Ballston Spa, NY and We Stand Comedy a duo of female comedians who are putting on a show Nov. 10th at The Village Underground. Their show will feature Shuli Egar (Last Comic Standing and Howard Stern), Carole Montgomery (Showtime, Oprah and Tour for the Troops), Tara Cannistraci (We Stand Comedy), Pat Brown (NBC Comics Unleashed and Comedy Central), Sam Morril (Comedy Central and Conan), and Kimberley Hellem (We Stand Comedy) to help raise money for The Guardian House. Right now they are a stone’s throw from their $10,000 goal.
Maggie, a resident of The Guardian House said, “Some people don’t understand how easy it is for somebody to fall and not see the rope to climb out of the hole. And just be able to come here and say ‘This is going to be alright.’ That’s what this place is for. To clear all that. To clear your head and just be able to start over that. Just put all that stuff in the box and move forward.”
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