Lisa Todd, who runs support services at Piquette Square, is quoted in this Crain’s article about addressing the needs of female veterans in Michigan:
By Amy Lane
Special to Crain’s Michigan Business
In Michigan’s quest to provide better services to veterans, state officials are gathering some new findings that could illuminate the needs of woman vets.
Early results from a Michigan Women’s Commission survey point to challenges including a high degree of sexual harassment in the military, significant post-military housing difficulties and homelessness, and unemployment that tops that of not only Michigan but also its veteran population as a whole.
By studying those and other results being analyzed but not yet released, the commission hopes to build a profile of Michigan’s population of woman veterans and respond to needs, ultimately helping them make successful transitions to civilian life and jobs.
64% of women experienced sexual harassment in the military.
36% experienced sexual assault or trauma.
60% said they did not think they received the needed services.
30% had encountered challenges finding housing since leaving the military.
38% of those respondents had been homeless for a period of time; 8 percent were currently homeless.
About 50,000 woman veterans live in Michigan. The commission wanted to see “what do these women look like and how can we help them?” said Susy Avery, executive director of the commission, which is working on the survey with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.
The predominantly online survey was conducted from July 2014 through January and attracted 425 respondents. Survey areas included health status, military background, benefits use and the way that woman vets gather information.
One finding: Nearly 64 percent of respondents experienced sexual harassment in the military, and 36 percent experienced sexual assault or trauma. The majority of those women — 60 percent — said they did not think they received the services needed to address their experiences.
Nearly 30 percent said they had encountered challenges finding housing since separating from the military. Of those, 38 percent said they had been homeless for a period of time and 8 percent were currently homeless.
It’s a group often thought of as male, Avery said. “People don’t realize there are women veterans who are homeless.”
Lisa Todd, residential services coordinator at Piquette Square in Detroit, an apartment project for homeless veterans, said the women’s homeless population is masked by several factors, including the lack of transitional housing for woman vets, a reluctance to seek help and assistance found with family and friends.
“In all reality, though, not having your own address is anybody’s definition of homeless,” Todd said. “Not having an address, you have no foundation, you have no start.”
Piquette Square offers permanent, subsidized apartments and services to help veterans become self-sufficient and reintegrate into the community, including mental health counseling, job training and connections to resources such as a veterans education program at Wayne State University and employment through the Michigan Works workforce development agency, Todd said.
“One of our main goals is to keep you housed and get you some kind of income,” she said. Woman vets occupy 10 of the 150 apartments at Piquette Square.
Avery said the Michigan Women’s Commission wants to delve deeper into factors contributing to some of the survey results and build awareness, including through presentations to lawmakers.
Jeff Barnes, director of the state Veterans Affairs Agency, said that “too often, people only think of male soldiers or male veterans when, in fact, women are the fastest-growing group within the veteran population.”
The agency’s work with the Women’s Commission, Barnes said, will help it learn more about woman vets and align future programs with identified needs.