According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more than 4,456 homeless female veterans in the U.S., many of whom have children. They account for 8 percent of the nation’s 58,000 homeless vets.
But a housing development that opened in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles not too long ago is providing much-needed hope in the form of a key, according to a CBS News report. Blue Butterfly Village was built specifically for homeless female veterans with children. The former Navy housing was rotting away but has been given new life in order to give vets like Danielle Chavez a new life, as well.
There are 73 subsidized town homes in the complex, which cost $15 million to refurbish, paid for by the Volunteers of America. Veterans pay rent based on a sliding scale, and living there also comes with childcare services, employment training, money management programs and mental health counseling. According to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, the goal is to get vets back on their feet, but they can stay in the complex indefinitely.
“We have lots of these that the Department of Defense is decommissioning,” McDonald said. “We want to make them sites where we can best care for veterans. This is the future.”
Many of these veterans, Mariatheresa Alcazar included, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Stationed on the USS Carl Vinson during 9/11, Alcazar was one of the first women to serve on an aircraft carrier. She is also one of many women raped while serving their country.
A study by the Veteran’s Health Administration found nearly 40 percent of female homeless veterans were sexually assaulted while in the military.
“The military is a tough memory,” Alcazar said.
When Chavez left the military in 2011, her marriage had ended and she struggled to finance her education. She ended up living in her car. Chavez later had to send her two young daughters to live with a relative.
“Every day I missed them,” she told CBS News. “Every day. I felt like they were growing up without me.”
Volunteers of America hopes to eventually take over 70 more vacant units owned by a nearby school, doubling the population at the village. Seventy more women like Alcazar and Chavez would now have a home.
“We don’t have to leave. I don’t have to go anywhere. I don’t have to move my car. I don’t have to fold my blankets on somebody’s couch. And people can come visit us here instead of us sleeping somewhere else,” Chavez said.