Imagine that you are a graduating high school girl with no chance at further schooling or a decent career, and a smartly dressed recruitment officer offers you a great career, travel and a chance to let Uncle Sam pay for your higher degree. This officer also tells you that once you are in the service, the Veterans Affairs organization will take care of you for life. Sounds pretty good, no?
Fast forward 10, 20 or 30 years, and now you are out of the service and suddenly there is no one to tell you how to live, how to buy groceries, how to buy a car, how to budget. Add to that the fact that you have witnessed your teammates being blown up, children suffering, and you having recurring nightmares from PTSD or MST (military sexual trauma). You may be injured physically or mentally. Your family and friends expect you to fit right back in to “normal life.” When you try to get counseling at the VA (if you are lucky enough to have one near), they tell you there is a two-month wait. Your life can cascade pretty quickly into homelessness, depression and suicide.
Currently in the entire state of North Carolina, there is not one VA-provided bed/residence for homeless women vets. It is estimated that there are over 6,000 homeless women veterans in this state, yet the VA only has official housing for male vets. If you have no permanent address, you can’t apply for housing aid, food stamps or veteran benefits. You can’t eat a healthy diet because you have no way to cook fresh food. You may even lose your car for lack of registration or insurance, limiting you even more.
Aura Home Women Vets is helping homeless women veterans in Western North Carolina and many adjacent states. They can help with rental deposits, connecting women with available resources and have transitional housing to help women get back on their feet. Director Alyce Knaflich, herself a formerly homeless Army veteran, also takes time with each client to help them survive the VA maze to receive their due, including health, housing and educational benefits. Aura Home Women Vets has replaced dangerous floors, provided food and clothing and even replaced a veteran’s furnace.
Since its inception in 2014, Aura Home Women Vets has helped over 180 women veterans of all ages. Aura Home Women Vets has received calls from Greyhound stations, interstate truck stops and even the VA. Currently, Aura Home Women Vets is raising funds to turn a former nursing home into a 12-bedroom transitional housing center with counselors and educational and basic skills programs.
To learn more about the needs of women veterans in Western North Carolina, you can contact Aura Home Women Vets at firstname.lastname@example.org or view the webpage at aurahomewomenvets.org.
Aura Home Women Vets is happy to provide speakers for your group to bring awareness of the plight of our women veterans right here in Western North Carolina. Most importantly, please do not forget our sisters who are veterans in need. Don’t forget the women vets.
— Betty Sharpless