More female veterans seek help

kimberley jonesKimberley wants it known that she is a fighter and homelessness can happen to anyone.

“This is a testimony,” she said. “Joy does come in the morning.”

A tall woman, with short hair, broad shoulders and a determined gaze, Kimberley still carries a soldier’s bearing. For eight years, she served in the Army Reserve, including a tour during Desert Storm.

She is one of nearly 40 female veterans who have been helped through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program (SSVF) in the last year.

Women make up about 11 percent of all Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, and by 2035, they are expected to make up 15 percent of all veterans. Many of them experience the same issues of Post-Traumatic Stress and substance abuse as their male counterparts, while others have unique issues of military sexual trauma and raising children.

“Some don’t feel like veterans because they aren’t treated the same way,” SSVF Case Manager Cherisa Williams said. “If they are females with children, there just aren’t as many resources.”

Housing can be particularly difficult, Williams said, because many facilities only serve men or cannot accept children. In some cases, they have had to send their children to live with another relative until they can find permanent housing. Williams was surprised at how quickly she was able to find help for Kimberley.

Since the Army, Kimberley worked as a truck driver, earned a teaching degree and taught middle school. She married, had a child and divorced, which is when her financial trouble began.

Kimberley pulled out a folder the size of a phone book, documenting her efforts to save her house and her credit history, which eventually left Kimberley and her 5-year-old daughter living with family.

“I was scared, upset, angry,” she said. “I felt a lot of guilt about my daughter.”

The VA referred her to Volunteers of America’s SSVF program, where she found a cheerleader in Williams, her case manager.

“They were not condescending. They are encouraging,” Kimberley said. “If you do your part, they are willing to meet you more than halfway.”

In less than 30 days, Kimberley and her daughter were in their own apartment. Kimberley is working on a nursing degree and hopes to work for the VA after graduation.

“I’m a lot more optimistic,” Kimberley said. “My faith has been strengthened.”

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