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Are homeless female veterans invisible?

The hard truth for women veterans in Cleveland.

The rapid growth of homeless female veterans is unsettling at best.

Although women veterans only represent about 2 percent of the overall homeless population, they’re at more than double the risk of becoming homeless than non-veteran women, according to a recent article by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Homeless and struggling female veterans, along with increasing numbers, are also more likely to be ‘invisible’ than their male counterparts,” according to Dennis Kresak, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio.

About 11 percent of the homeless population ­– or 141,000 Americans – are veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). And while the population of homeless veterans in the U.S. dropped from 2010-2011, the number of homeless female veterans continues to grow. In fact, homeless women veterans actually increased by 19 percent, and they now make up 10 percent of the total homeless veteran population.

A second Cleveland Plain Dealer article called on the expertise of Toni Johnson, the current women’s homeless coordinator of the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. She noted that some homeless women veterans were foster children who joined the military at age 18 when their foster care ended. When they left the service, “they came out without any home, or family support,” she said. “We see that a lot.”

Military sexual trauma (MST), which affects 39 percent of female veterans who seek VA benefits, can also play a significant role in homelessness.

Tina Brown, psychologist and MST coordinator at the Cleveland VA Medical Center, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that MST can lead to a variety of mental health issues, substance abuse and physical health problems. Negotiating these effects can greatly impact a vet’s ability to find and keep a job, sometimes leading to homelessness.

Cleveland charity for veterans strives to sway the statistics.

The Veterans Domiciliary at Wade Park, a partnership between Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio and the Cleveland VA Medical Center , aims to change that. What may be the only arrangement of this kind in the country, the domiciliary provides the kind of support and resources that struggling veterans need to regain independence.

The facility can house from 15 to 25 homeless women veterans. Residents can stay for six months or longer, depending on the need, while hunting for permanent housing. The facility has served 70 homeless women veterans since it opened at Wade Park in 2011.

“It’s clean, it’s organized, it’s safe, and you can talk to people here if you need help,” Air Force veteran Tina told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Patricia James Stewart, VA domiciliary chief, said the “veterans’ culture” of the VA campus helps homeless women vets “realize that they’re not alone, there’s help and we can all get through this together.”"

Donate your car in Cleveland.

Your Cleveland car donation can make a drastic change in a female veteran’s life. At Volunteers of America, we rely on the generosity of neighbors like you to support the veterans programs and services that make facilities like The Veterans Domiciliary at Wade Park possible.

Donating your car in Cleveland is simple. Just fill out this quick online donation form and we’ll call you to arrange your free same-day pickup. We’ll accept nearly anything with a motor, from cars and trucks to RVs and tractors. You could even receive more for your donation on your tax return than you would selling it on your own.

Call us today at (800) 862-6030 or visit our car donation FAQs.