Organizations consolidate to provide long-term housing for homeless female veterans

06/09/2016 04:10 PM

FRANKFORT – It’s believed that the number of homeless female veterans is growing in the country, and a pair of organizations in Kentucky is merging to pull their efforts and resources together to identify and help female veterans in the Commonwealth of Kentucky who have nowhere to live.

It’s estimated that there are 1.8 million female veterans in the nation.

While it’s hard sometimes to identify how many are homeless in Kentucky, latest records show there is a total of 24,808 female veterans in the commonwealth, and it’s estimated that the state will see an increase of 45 percent in the total number of veterans in the next five years.

Two non-profit organizations aimed at helping female veterans, Lady Vets Connect and Sheppard’s Hands, will merge on July 1 or shortly after to form a new organization called Lady Veterans Hands for Hope.

Shelly Whitehouse, who founded Lady Vets Connect, and Phyllis Abbot, who founded Sheppard’s Hands, testified on Thursday before the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection about what their organizations and what the new combined organization will be doing to help homeless women’s veterans.

Whitehouse says the total number of homeless women’s veterans is unknown because of a number of factors.

“I don’t think we truly know because simply the fact that we have these couch surfers, especially the post-Iraq wars, a lot of the younger ones are doing their couch surfing, and hanging out with friends, and then, of course, we have these lady veterans that are staying in the pay-by-week that are, you know, paying $300 a week just to try to survive,” Whitehouse said.

As for the primary reasons that women’s veterans are homeless, Whitehouse says that one of the biggest is making the adjustment from military to civilian life.

“They come out suffering maybe some mental or emotional traumas from the service, and then, of course, if they have children where are they going to go?,” Whitehouse said.

In an effort to give women veterans a place to live and get back on their feet, Sheppard’s Hands is opening up a renovated house in Lexington on De Porres Avenue that has been donated for two years by Jim Thurman, a pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church. After two years, she said the organization will have the option of buying the house, which will be able to house three women.

In addition, Abbot said that work is underway on a 20,000 square foot facility in Clark County which can house up to 30 people.

“We will be getting them counseling, medical care at the VA if their entitled to it, if they can’t get VA care, we’ll make sure they get private care,” Abbot said. “We’re also doing financial planning for them, job training skills, life skills, whatever to make them sustainable when they get into the community.”


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