Hostel caters to homeless female veterans

HOUSTON A shelter in our area has added a special area for war veterans, along with the section for other homeless women. It's at the Santa Maria Shelter off Jacquelyn Street in northwest Houston.

Houston's homeless population has many faces and Houston Treatment Center Santa Maria will be the first in the city to focus on homeless female veterans.

"There is a huge crisis in Houston," said Barbara Page, CFO of the Santa Maria hostel. "It's home to one of the largest female vet populations in the entire country."

Texas ranks second among states with the largest homeless female veterans population. On any given night, nearly 150 women that have served our country are sleeping on the streets.

But through donations from the Great Houston Builders Association and a government grant, five rooms with 24 beds have been renovated with the touch of an interior designer. They will be designated for female homeless veterans.

"I'm learning a lot about myself, about my family and life skills that everyone should know," client Gloria Perez said.

Ten hours a day of counseling will be mandatory for anyone seeking a room that is also part of the Santa Maria hostel, serving mostly single mothers.

Client Lara Prusinski lost her daughter a year ago because of drug abuse.

"Slowly I just started deteriorating; ex-boyfriend moved in, he was using," Prusinski said. "I was paying all the bills; you know, started using again."

As female veterans begin filling rooms, and services will tailored to their specific situation.

"They will have some special needs," Page said. "There are some mental issues that -- psychological counseling that we will partner with other agencies in Houston to address those specific needs."

A kitchen will provide three meals a day plus snacks.

Counselors hope female veterans will be able to utilize other programs after completing initial treatment, following in the footsteps of Prusinski.

"To get my daughter back, to get full custody of my daughter back and to actually move into their next program which is the Bonita House and have her move in there with me," Prusinski said.

Santa Maria is putting the finishing touches on the rooms and hopes to begin taking female veterans off the streets in the next 60 days.

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