VA resources strained; many are single parents
WASHINGTON - The number of female service members who have become homeless after leaving the military has jumped dramatically in recent years, according to new government estimates, presenting the Veterans Administration with a challenge as it struggles to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As more women serve in combat zones, the share of female veterans who end up homeless, while still relatively small at an estimated 6,500, has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For younger veterans, it is even more pronounced: One out of every 10 homeless vets under the age of 45 is now a woman, the statistics show.
And unlike their male counterparts, many have the added burden of being single parents.
"Some of the first homeless vets that walked into our office were single moms,'' said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "When people think of homeless vets, they don't think of a Hispanic mother and her kids. The new generation of veterans is made up of far more women.''
Overall, female veterans are now between two and four times more likely to end up homeless than their civilian counterparts, according to the VA, most as a result of the same factors that contribute to homelessness among male veterans: mental trauma related to their military service and difficulty transitioning into the civilian economy.