Every year, proud and willing Americans decide to dedicate their life to military service for the United States. Anyone who joins the military will have a tough road ahead of them, but even more so for those chosen for real-world deployment situations. Unfortunately, our country may be lagging when it comes to taking care of our veterans once they have served our country.
There is a growing problem in the treatment of veterans, and many veterans can find themselves out on the street when external circumstances or internal demons become too much to handle. It gets even worse when you look at the treatment of female military veterans. Despite doing their duty to their country, many female veterans and especially homeless ones are seemingly left behind when it comes time to rebuild their life. Sara Scoco is seeking to change that.
There are currently an estimated three to 4000 homeless veteran women, though director of the women’s program of the nonprofit Soldier On estimates that number is quite low compared to reality. “When people are doing homeless counts, they’re going to shelters; they’re seeing people on the street. A female veteran is not the person you see on the street holding a sign,” said Scoco.
Scoco and Soldier On recognized the lack of support for homeless female veterans and sought to alleviate some of the burdens by building a transitional housing facility for female veterans. The three-story building on the campus of the Veteran Affairs building in Leeds, Massachusetts currently houses sixteen women. The facility caters to the needs of the women with help finding employment, support groups, and ways to occupy the mind like yoga and art classes. Soldier On wants to do everything in their power to get these women back on their feet. Most of the veterans in Scoco’s care suffer from some form of mental illness related to their time in the service.
“A lot of women that come to us have lost everything,” Scoco said. “They’ve lost all sense of hope. And so all of what we do is build them back up.”
Scoco estimates that the importance of gender-specific treatment of our veterans will grow as the number of female veterans is estimated to top over two million shortly. “There are women that have served the hell out of our country, and they’re not being recognized, and they need to be,” she said. “They need to be treated not the same way as males, but they need to be treated. Period.”