LORAIN — A new demographic of those in need has begun to emerge — homeless women who are veterans.
On Wednesday morning, Fran DeWine, the wife of gubernatorial candidate and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, visited Valor Home to learn more about the growing need of homeless female veterans while taking a tour of the facility, which houses male veterans.
Matthew Slater, director of veterans services for Family and Community Services, which operates Valor Home, said the growing need of female veterans has been coming to light over the past couple years.
“Unfortunately, even nationally, we just don’t have a good handle on how many homeless female vets there are,” Slater said. “They’re not showing up to the VA. They’re not showing up in the normal mainstream.”
Slater said often women answer the question of ‘Are you a veteran?’ with ‘No.’
“We have to ask them, ‘Did you serve?’ There’s a lot of language we need to make sure of,” he said. “There’s often shame attached because they’ve had some sort of sexual trauma.”
Fran DeWine also believes that there’s another reason that women veterans have a hard time coming forward for help.
“They’re all strong women that don’t want to admit they need help,” she said. “They’re tough, but I think if you get a good center started for them, they will come forward. When they find that there’s a place they can get help and bring their kids with them, that’s going to be a big important thing.”
Valor Home program manager Sandra Wright echoed some of what Fran DeWine said.
“Women in particular like to try to figure out and work it out themselves,” Wright said. “The same goes for women veterans, especially if they have a lot of barriers such as children, transportation or job skills. They try to figure it out for themselves. There’s not a lot of support in the county for women and women veterans.”
The recent #MeToo movement in which many women have shared their experiences of dealing with sexual trauma and harassment has brought awareness to a problem that has existed in many industries. Slater said he’s not sure that it will be enough to help female veterans come forward.
“I hope it does, but I think there’s another layer of ‘you’re a veteran; pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ that we have to overcome,” he said. “Not being a veteran or a female, it’s hard for me to know. What I do know is we have to do a better job.”