Survey highlights gender impact among homeless and at-risk veterans
It’s not just in the military that women may have to work harder to achieve similar results and benefits to their male counterparts. A survey of male and female veterans receiving emergency housing benefits over the past 12 months reveals significant differences in the average duration of military service of women versus men.
Operation Sacred Trust is a nationally-accredited, nonprofit Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program serving homeless and at-risk veterans in Broward and Miami-Dade counties in southern Florida. In the 12 months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the agency provided emergency assistance to 1,248 South Florida veterans and 579 additional household members.
Protecting veterans who provided 38,500 months of military service
Seth Eisenberg, the agency’s co-founder and chief executive, said the group of 1,248 veterans receiving housing assistance provided a total of 38,500 months of military service, an average just short of 31 months each. During this period, Eisenberg said 13% of those receiving emergency housing benefits through the agency were women.
Female veterans served six months longer than men
Overall, female Veterans receiving the emergency housing benefits served in the military an average of 36 months versus 30 months for their male counterparts, Eisenberg said.
Those who received benefits from the SSVF program are grouped into two categories: (1) literally homeless and (2) seeking prevention assistance to remain housed. During the first 12 months of the pandemic, 59% of those receiving benefits were seeking help to remain housed. On average, male veterans seeking assistance to remain housed served 32.2 months of active duty; female veterans seeking the same assistance served an average of 37.6 months.
While female veterans were 13% of the overall total receiving housing assistance from the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, women were more likely to reach out for prevention assistance. Fifteen percent of veterans receiving help to protect their current housing in the first 12 months of the pandemic were females.
Female veterans more likely to live with others
During this period, women were also more likely to include other people in their household, either a child, spouse, or partner. The average female veteran household receiving assistance during over these 12 months included two people. Male veterans were more likely to be single-person households.
The data review also revealed significant differences based on branch of service. For example, differences in the duration of military services between men and women were greater for women serving in the Army than the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
Agency prioritizes reaching and helping women who served
The number of homeless and at-risk female veterans has been steadily increasing since the agency began providing services in 2011, Eisenberg said. Operation Sacred Trust, he said, actively targets at-risk female veterans through social media, includes onsite childcare and family friendly meeting rooms to accommodate female veterans with children, and prioritized recruiting and training trauma-informed female veterans to serve in the program’s outreach, engagement, and care teams.
Pandemic increased challenges to ending veteran homelessness
Since FY 2012, VA’s Supportive Services for Veterans Families program has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to assist homeless and very low-income veterans in communities throughout the United States. Prior to the pandemic, that effort significantly contributed to reducing veteran homelessness by more than 50 percent. Eisenberg said pandemic-related job losses, small business failures, and higher housing costs have led to increased challenges for VA-funded collaborations like Operation Sacred Trust.
Veterans without stable housing were often at the highest risk of serious health consequences from COVID-19. “Over the past year, ensuring every veteran in our community had a safe place to sleep became a life or death challenge,” Eisenberg said.
Nationwide help is available for homeless and at-risk veterans
A nationwide list of VA-funded Supportive Services for Veteran Families programs and contact information is available online at veteranhousinghelp.com. Housing assistance for homeless and very-low income veterans at risk of homelessness in Broward and Miami-Dade counties is available through Operation Sacred Trust, Mission United, and the Advocate Program.