The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) recently sponsored The National Summit on Women Veteran Homelessness. Held in Chicago on May 2-3, 2013. The event brought together notable experts in research, policy and practice as well as women veterans who have lived the experience of being homeless, to address the growing issue of women veteran homelessness in the United States.
Between October 2011 and September 2012, nearly 21,000 female veterans were at risk of homelessness or were already homeless. Overall, women veterans are two to four times more likely to become homeless as compared to non-veteran women. With the Obama Administration declaring a national goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, the Summit brings together area experts to push action and seek new information that will make this goal a reality.
The event began with presentations from veteran homelessness experts who addressed underlying issues behind veteran homelessness, especially those specific to women veterans. Several dialogue sessions followed the presentations that encouraged participants to further analyze the unique challenges faced by women veterans at risk of homelessness.
Topics of conversation included substance abuse both during and post- military service, trauma experienced in the military, and unemployment. These and other hardships, combined with the military culture mentality to hide weakness and refrain from seeking help, are some of the root issues recognized by participants as being causes for increased homelessness among women veterans.
Many of the experts and veterans present also addressed some of the flaws within services meant to assist transitioning veterans and help them take advantage of education and employment opportunities, and to secure stable housing. While there are excellent programs in existence, there remains a lack of services tailored specifically to women veterans, particularly those with children. The group also brought to light the need for a single point of contact that will aid women veterans in finding programs that meet their specific needs.
The Summit contributed new ideas and plans to be put into action to help end women veteran homelessness and provide women veterans with easily accessible services to assist them on the path to a successful transition back into civilian life. A summary report of the National Summit can be accessed here.
For more information on the National Summit on Women Veteran Homelessness, please contact Gary Shaheen, IVMF’s director of employment policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 315-443-9819.