Female homeless vets need help

May 25, 2009 4:21:07 PM PDT
A national organization that helps homeless veterans find shelter says they're seeing an increase of women and mothers in need of their help.About 300 homeless veterans live at Midtown Terrace, but there a few faces that stand out. You can't miss the women, sometimes young ones, fresh from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are already learning it can be hard to come home.

There aren't many places Rollion Hampton fits in, but at the Midtown Terrace on Main Street, she's queen bee. Rollion, 51, is a homeless veteran -- a US Marine and a trained warrior, she likes to say. But, in Houston there isn't much this trained warrior can do without a college degree.

"I'm articulate, I'm smart, I can spell anything," she said. "Can't find a job! To come here and find out I'm not qualified to do anything, it feels bad."

The United States Veterans' Initiative provides housing and counseling services to homeless veterans. It's a population they say that is increasingly made up of women.

[ State director Tom Mitchell estimates at this time last year the organization was helping about 20 women like Rollion. Today, it is supporting 37.

"There are more of them than ever before, and there's more of them serving in combat zones," Mitchell explained.

Mitchell says roughly a quarter of these women became victims of sexual assault, before or during their service. About half are also mothers. That includes Rollion.

"I saved the best for last," she said. "I have 11 kids -- six boys and five girls."

This shelter doesn't allow children, though, so the women here must leave them with family or friends. Rollion's are with her mother. It's a hard life. On this Memorial Day, she is making the best of things. But if you sit her down and ask her how she really feels, she will tell you.

"The truth is, on Memorial Day, I wish to hell nobody was honoring dead soldiers," Rollion admitted. "I wish we were honoring living ones."

There are several organizations in Houston coming together to help its population of veterans. They are working on what could be the first project of its kind in the country -- a three million dollar apartment complex designed specifically for women veterans.

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