Female veteran population rising rapidly

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jan 04 2013 06:33:00 PM HST

A local program aims to improve the number of program dedicated to women in our armed forces and services.

HONOLULU -

"It got pretty tough, pretty quick," said Donna Klinch, who served our country for 20 years, then found herself homeless and in despair.

But through the help of her community and a special program she has found a place to rebuild.

"What we need to do in Hawaii is show the rest of the nation how you get it done," said Darryl Vincent, who is U.S. Vets COO and Hawaii Executive Director.

A year ago, the YWCA and the U.S. Vets realized women veterans needed a place of their own to rebuild their lives.

They got together, earned a grant and funded 20 beds at Fernhurst, which is a transitional center in Honolulu.

"Now that we're here, we are not getting lost among the men. They are aiming for us and for our needs," said Klinch.

And statistics show the need is huge.

Seventy-five percent of women veterans are sexually abused, 50 percent abuse alcohol and drugs, a third are dealing with mental illness, and 40 percent have disabilities.

"You put that together and it is quite a picture of a person with challenges," said Dr. William Dubbs, who is with Pacific Islands Health System and has worked extensively with veterans.

"This is a challenge for us here in the United States to come to grips with something we have ignored," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was the keynote speaker at Friday's opening ceremony. 

A nationwide five-year plan to end homelessness among veterans began in 2009.

Since then, the number of veterans on the streets has gone down by more than 17 percent.

"Now we are leading the nation in providing a program of support for female veterans who are in need of that support," said Abercrombie.

"This is a place that will give us a safe haven and be able to take care of the hurts. It's for women who have seen too much or have been hurt too much," said Klinch.

Women veterans are four times more likely to become homeless than non-service women.

The YWCA of Oahu says five veterans are already staying at Fernhurst and they have several more preparing to move there.

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