They risk their lives for their country, but many military women are not getting the support they need when they return home.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that female veterans are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. homeless population, and are three times more likely to be homeless than male veterans.
As a captain in the military, Jas Boothe faced many obstacles. However, some of her greatest challenges came when she returned home.
"I didn't have a home [and] I didn't have a job," says Boothe. "I had nowhere to go."
Her home was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, and a month later she was diagnosed with cancer.
With a son to support, she looked for assistance, but found none.
"At that point, there were no existing services for women veterans and their children," Boothe explained.
On any given day, about 55,000 female veterans are homeless in the U.S.
More than 60 percent of homeless shelters that serve female vets don't accept children.
"Honestly, I think America does not equate the service and sacrifice of women veterans the same as our male counterparts," Boothe said.
So, she started Final Salute, a non-profit that has provided transitional housing or financial assistance for nearly 200 female veterans.
The seven-bedroom home can house up to 10, and the kids are welcome.
Annmarie Dixon has been living here for a year and a half. She needed the help when she became pregnant and lost her military health benefits.
"I lived and slept in my car while I was pregnant for about six months," remembers Dixon.
She said she works and saves her money.
"I can see the light and I can finally see my goals are coming to fruition," Dixon said.
Boothe was able to bounce back on her own, but said she won't stop fighting for female vets to get the support they need.
"It doesn't take a person who is a millionaire or a billionaire to make a difference," Boothe explained. "It just takes a person who cares."
Final Salute has raised more than $650,000 for homeless female veterans.
Boothe allows the women to stay in the houses for up to two years.
The organization also works to prevent homelessness by providing interest-free loans or grants to help female veterans pay for rent, deposit, and utilities.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Berks Tim Lind / 69 News