• Nearly 63,000 male and female veterans are homeless on any given night. They make up 13 percent of the U.S. homeless population. Female veterans are twice as likely to be homeless as women who haven’t served in the military.
• 8 percent of homeless vets are women.
• 50 percent of all veterans have disabilities and/or serious mental illness.
• 70 percent have substance abuse problems.
Shelter is sometimes used to describe Faith Farm and Angels House, located in Dallas, N.C., and Columbia, S.C., respectively. But the word doesn’t do justice to what these transitional homes for female veterans really provide: hope.
Operated by Lutheran Services Carolinas, which funds the programs in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Faith Farm and Angels House address the reality that women are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless veteran population.
Each woman’s story is unique, but some common themes emerge at the homes: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual abuse (1 in 5 women in the military have reported being victims of military sexual trauma).
At Faith Farm and Angels House, residents function as a family, sharing household responsibilities as they prepare for self-sufficiency. Program leaders support the women as they seek employment and keep them informed about veterans’ benefits.
“We don’t recycle people here,” said Judy Johnston, program director of Faith Farm, which is owned by the Lutheran Support Group of Gaston Inc., a partnership of 16 Lutheran congregations in Gaston County. The home can accommodate seven women, who are referred through the VA. Participants can live there for up to two years, although many transition out after a year and a half. “When they leave, they’re ready to leave,” Johnston said.
Johnston helps residents set up treatment plans that focus on physical and emotional health, housing, job placement, education, and reconnecting with family and friends.
Denise Harper, an Air Force veteran, comes from a military family. She remembers her arrival at Faith Farm late in 2011 in terms of what she lacked: a home, possessions, confidence and her health. But she didn’t lose her motivation to rebuild her life. And that’s exactly what she did at Faith Farm.
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