Women are a rapidly growing part of the military — and are becoming an ever-larger part of the homeless veteran population, as well.
This Friday, hundreds of those women will gain access to the resources and support they need to survive here in Long Beach.
California’s first-ever Female Veteran Stand Down will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, July 15, at the Rainbow Lagoon Park off Shoreline Drive and Linden Avenue. U.S. VETS and the U.S. Department of Labor — Women’s Bureau developed the plan for the stand down (a military term indicating time to stop fighting and recover) to assist female veterans living without proper shelter, or looking to regain order in their new civilian lives.
“The purpose of the stand down is to give female veterans a break,” said U.S. VETS Homeless Female Veteran Career Counselor Jennifer Grigoriou, Psy.D. “The unfortunate thing is, homelessness among female veterans is growing.”
Some women in the service, who may have left to get away from a difficult situation, return to their prior lives only to find themselves back where they started, she said.
Returning to civilian life is not as easy as some women expect it to be, Grigoriou said, especially if they relied on someone to take care of them prior to their leave of duty. Others may have experienced sexual trauma, or had their children taken away from them. Experiencing these adversities make it difficult for women to deal with the disorganization in their lives — which can lead to homelessness, she said.
According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, female veterans are twice as likely to become homeless after they serve their duty. The VA estimates that 6,500 female veterans sleep on the streets, in cars or shelters each night.
Eighty-five vendors will be on hand Friday to provide free services for the day, such as financial advice, free clothing, healthcare and daycare, as well as information about employment services. Also, the women may partake in makeovers, massages, haircuts and acupuncture. Grigoriou said she is expecting between 500 and 1,000 female veterans and their families to attend and take advantage of everything being offered.
A panel of speakers, featuring women who served in wars from World War II to Desert Storm, will provide the opening remarks for the stand down. The afternoon will continue with talks on how to transfer military work service to civilian work experience, sexual trauma, financial counseling and a discussion from veteran Tara Wise on “Female Vets and Why They Matter.”
“It’s the first time in history this sort of thing has been done specifically for women,” she said. “People realize now that women have been ignored for so long. The women didn’t know where they can get these types of services because some don’t even identify themselves as vets because they don’t think that they meet the qualifications to be a veteran.”
Although the stand down is intended for women, male veterans are welcome to attend and participate in some of the vendor services.
“The main thing is, women need to know that they don’t need to be isolated anymore,” Grigoriou said. “That was my main draw for this — to get women to come together and empower each other — that is what is really rewarding.”