Number of homeless female vets on rise

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. --- The number of homeless women veterans is increasing in North Carolina and South Carolina as they become a larger part of the military, but the resources to help them are limited.

The Fayetteville Observer reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs said about 90 women veterans who are homeless live in Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg. The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., reported that Crisis Ministry there said it provided temporary shelter to 28 female vets in the previous fiscal year.

But the numbers aren't necessarily accurate because some people don't seek help or others bounce from home to home and never enter the system. The National Coalition for the Homeless said women account for 3 percent to 4 percent of the national population of homeless vets, which numbers about 200,000 nightly.

The main reason for the problem is that women account for more of the military. And as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, service providers expect the number of women who need help to grow.

Sandra Perkins, who served from 1976 to 1983 and was twice deployed to Germany, has been on a waiting list for subsidized housing for more than a year. She now lives at Crisis Ministries in Charleston while getting medical treatment at the VA center and walking to substance-abuse meetings. She's enrolled in the shelter's Work Keys program, which assesses job skills and helps participants become more marketable.

She thought her experience in the service would help her advance a civilian career, but instead, potential employers seem to dismiss her as a serious candidate, Perkins said.

"It didn't do what I thought it would do," she said.