By Diane Kaplan, President and CEO Rasmuson Foundation
In the summer of 2012, I was privileged to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Mary Louise Rasmuson and several Alaska women veterans. At the time, Mary Louise, who served as head of the Women’s Army Corps (WACS) in the Eisenhower/Kennedy days and on the Rasmuson Foundation board for 50 years, was 101 years old. The women were members of the emerging Alaska Veterans Organization for Women (AVOW) organization, led by founder Vanessa Meade.
Mary Louise Rasmuson shared stories with members of the Alaska Veterans Organization for Women in 2012.
In a discussion about sexual assault in the military, an older gentleman at one point turned to me and said, “What do you think, Kayla, don’t these girls know that if they’re in these situations and get partially undressed, what might happen?”
I said, “I have to use the restroom” and walked out of the room to collect myself.
This was partly so I wouldn’t lose my temper at what to me was an appalling question.
As the looming Congressional fight over government spending approaches, the YWCA will continue to advocate for policies and bills like SNAP that will support women and their families. We hope you’ll join us!
1. More and more Americans are turning to food stamps each day, despite the economic recovery.
By Katie Stanton
Social Media & Online Engagement Manager, YWCA USA
This week was a busy one for equality, economic empowerment, safety and education. But there’s a common thread in this wide range of stories: it’s time to move past “conversation” and take action, as one kindergartner did in Ohio. Click here to join the YWCA’s Advocacy Network, and read on!
Top Five on Friday
1. The country is having a more open and honest discussion about sexual assault than we have ever had in the past, thanks to social media and the ease with which we can document and share attacks. However, the victims must still deal with a lack of privacy and anonymity as they try to move forward.
2013 is nearly here, so let’s take a step back and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. For the YWCA, looking back helps us remember what we can achieve together, and to plan for how we will continue to empower women and eliminate racism in coming years.
YWCAs across the country have truly made an impressive difference in their communities. Our local associations worked hard to serve the two million women and families who participate in our programs every year. Here is just a sample of their many achievements:
The YWCA York, as part of a Human Trafficking Task Force, increased awareness about the widespread trafficking taking place in their community at their Cocktails for a Cause event. YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., discussed the YWCA USA’s commitment to empowering survivors of violence.
by Kimberly Miyazawa Frank
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA of O‘ahu
Kimberly Miyazawa Frank
On a cold January night in 2011, roughly 68,000 veterans across the nation were spotted on the street without a roof over their heads. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says 144,842 veterans spent “at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program” throughout the course of the year.
In our state of Hawai‘i, roughly 1,100 veterans experienced homelessness at some point in 2011. Women made up about 5% of those veterans, and the U.S.VETS office in Hawai‘i fears their ranks will grow.
“The reality is the number of homeless women veterans is rising,” said Darryl Vincent, Chief Operating Officer of U.S.VETS. “Our women veterans are an underserved population, partly due to not having a facility and services specifically targeted to reach them.”
That’s why the YWCA of O‘ahu has made a commitment to fill that need. We teamed up with U.S.VETS to offer the state’s first transitional housing specifically designed for homeless women veterans, providing comprehensive and proactive assistance. YWCA Fernhurst in central Honolulu will be the home of this newest initiative, with 20 beds a night and three meals a day guaranteed to serve homeless women veterans. Participants in this program can take advantage of the services provided by both U.S.VETS and the VA, including clinical case management and job readiness training. The project will also address issues that are unique to women veterans, such as military sexual trauma (MST). The YWCA of O‘ahu also plans to make available its Economic Advancement programs, including Dress for Success® Honolulu, to help each veteran land a job and move to economic self-sufficiency.
Opportunity Place - Site of the Worksource Program
Over 125,000 veterans and their families live in King County in Washington State. Like veterans across the United States, many experience challenges in making the transition to civilian life, and especially to civilian employment. These difficulties are especially acute for recent veterans and for women: nationally, veterans who have served since September, 2001 are unemployed at higher rates than non-veterans or older veterans, and the unemployment rate for female vets is higher than it is for males. Our homeless population still includes many Vietnam-era veterans who struggle with mental illness and chemical dependency. And the family members of all these veterans are often affected emotionally and economically by the hardships their loved ones undergo.
There are about 1,340 female homeless war veterans in the U.S. today, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
According to a USA Today report, the VA says as of this May, 10,476 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans either live on the streets, live in temporary housing or receive federal help to keep them off the streets — and about 13% of them are women.
The newspaper interviewed LaShonna Perry, a former Army mechanic who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who was homeless for more than year after leaving the military.