By Andrea Nash
Vice President & COO, Henderson House Director
YWCA Middle Rio Grande
In May 2011, the YWCA Middle Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico started Henderson House, which is a transitional housing program for women veterans and their children who are experiencing homelessness. Henderson House, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), foundations, companies and individuals, can serve 10 women and their children at any given time. The program is designed so that 80% will go on to permanent housing within 1 year and then other women will take their place. Our experience with Henderson House has shown that women veterans and their children can succeed when they have a safe, affordable housing and the supports and services they need to maintain that housing.
Unfortunately, the issue of homelessness among women veterans and their children is growing, as more women return from the active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Government Accountability Office estimated that the ranks of homeless female veterans had risen more than 140 percent between 2006 and 2010. While the transition from military to civilian life is a difficult adjustment for both male and female veterans, it is especially difficult for women. For many, having a safe, gender-specific facility where their children can also live is essential to their recovery. Research suggests that 81-93% of female veterans have been exposed to some type of trauma both before and after enlistment. Traumatic experiences include childhood abuse and neglect, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma. These experiences have a significant impact on mental and physical health, family relationships, and housing and job stability. As the VA and our communities strive to end homelessness among veterans, we must remember that women veterans experience homelessness too.
Watch a video about the Henderson House: