Written by Ania Beszterda Alyson, Community Engagement & Advocacy Manager at Low Income Housing Institute
Janis is a mother of two children, and a military veteran who served as an operating room tech from June 1992 through December 1996.
After leaving the service and getting out of a 14-year abusive marriage, Janis experienced homelessness three separate times.
“Military life can be very hard, but the transition back to the civilian world was far harder than I expected. Back then there were very few programs offered to soldiers that were transitioning,” she said.
Like many of the fellow female vets she knew, at her “final out” appointment Janis was told she had no benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It was years before she understood the assistance she was eligible for as a veteran.
“In 2008, I was in a shelter in Tacoma, and the paperwork for entering the shelter asked if I was a vet. Of course I marked yes, but not one person referred me to the VA. If someone had, I would have been back on my feet two years sooner. Once I was referred to the VA, my situation, circumstances and life improved so quickly! If it were not for the VA and homeless services, I don’t know how I would have ever been able to get where I am today,” Janis said.
After several trying years, Janis and her sons finally enjoy stability of a home – an apartment set aside for veteran families by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI).
“Since I moved into an apartment at LIHI, everything changed. I regained custody of my oldest son. I was able to go to work, provide for my children and I started making plans to return to school. I’m able to do counseling, make friends, and provide a very peaceful home for my children and myself. In the future I hope to purchase my own home, complete the surgical tech program at Seattle Central, and enjoy the rest of my life in peace with my children,” Janis said.
When leaving the military, Janis didn’t realize that the hardships she experienced are shared by many female U.S. military veterans. As a group, female vets have four times greater risk of homelessness compared to their civilian counterparts.
LIHI provides homes for 413 low-income and formerly homeless veterans and their families across Puget Sound, but as many as 1,200 are still experiencing homelessness in King County alone while the number of homeless female veterans continues to increase at an alarming rate.
How You Can Help:
- Tell your legislator that you would like better funding for affordable housing and women-focused shelters, especially those that serve women vets.
- Volunteer with local efforts to help veterans. Visit volunteer pages on the LIHI website or the VA website.
- Learn more about homelessness among veterans by reading other posts in our “From Soldier to Civilian” series: