More Women Vets Are Homeless, But Housing Scarce | Washington | CBS News
She was laid off from work last year and lost custody of her daughter. She’s grappled with alcohol abuse, a carry-over from heavy-drinking Navy days. She spent nights in her car before a friend’s boyfriend wrecked it, moving later to a homeless shelter where the insulin needles she needs for her diabetes were stolen.
She now lives in transitional housing for homeless veterans — except the government recently advised occupants to leave because of unsafe building conditions.
“I wasn’t a loser,” McLamb, 32, says. “Everybody who’s homeless doesn’t necessarily have to have something very mentally wrong with them. Some people just have bad circumstances with no resources.”
Once primarily male veteran problems, homelessness and economic struggles are escalating among female veterans, whose numbers have grown during the past decade of U.S. wars while resources for them haven’t kept up. The population of female veterans without permanent shelter has more than doubled in the last half-dozen years and may continue climbing now that the Iraq war has ended, sending women home with the same stresses as their male counterparts — plus some gender-specific ones that make them more susceptible to homelessness.
The problem, a hurdle to the Obama administration’s stated goal of ending veterans’ homelessness by 2015, is exacerbated by a shortage of temporary housing specifically designed to be safe and welcoming to women or mothers with children. The spike comes even as the overall homeless veteran population has gone down, dropping by nearly 12 percent to about 67,500 between January 2010 and January 2011, officials say.
“It can’t get any worse,” McLamb says matter-of-factly, “’cause I’ve already been through hell.”
Veterans’ homelessness, the subject of a March congressional hearing, has received fresh attention amid government reports documenting the numbers and identifying widespread flaws in buildings that shelter veterans.
“I think it’s very clear that women veterans in particular lack the services they need,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in an interview.
Female veterans make up about 8 percent of all veterans, or about 1.8 million, compared to just 4 percent in 1990. The number of homeless female veterans has more than doubled from 1,380 to 3,328 between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2010, according to a December U.S. Government Accountability Office report that found many with young children and nearly two-thirds between ages 40 and 59.