Guest Blog written by Catholic Charities
Sherry considers herself lucky to have such supportive family and friends. Despite the support, the time she spent in Kuwait and Iraq changed her. “We were exposed to danger every day,” said Sherry. As a truck driver, she never knew what to expect.
While out on missions, Sherry would sleep on top of her fuel truck while the other driver slept under the stairs. All her laundry was done in a bucket and showers consisted of bagged water that had sat out in the sun. Eventually conditions improved and included 3 hot meals a day, air conditioning in tents and flushing toilets. Despite these comforts, Sherry had changed.
“When I returned home from my tour, I was surrounded by loving family and friends, but I’ve never felt so lonely, afraid and sad.” Sherry kept all these feeling to herself and put on a brave face. “I had no idea how to ask for help, or what kind of help I needed.”
Eventually, Sherry moved across the country to make a fresh start. She struggled, but eventually found a job and a place to live. Sherry saw a need for additional support for woman veterans returning to civilian life. St. Bernadette’s Place, a Phoenix area transitional living facility for veteran women experiencing homelessness, was designed for women like Sherry.
Modeled after Catholic Charities’ successful Marines, Army, Navy, Airforce (MANA) House transitional living program for male veterans, St. Bernadette’s Place residents will receive intensive case management with the goal of successfully moving into permanent, affordable housing. In addition to case management, women will receive health and wellness support, financial literacy, workforce development, and other social support services designed to bring long-term stability to their lives.
“We want to give a big thank you to Valley of the Sun United Way for their commitment to veterans and housing initiatives in the community. Over the last couple of years, United Way has supported our efforts through grant funding and in-kind donations, and, because of you, we’re helping those experiencing homelessness find the hope and opportunities necessary to move into stable, affordable housing. We’re so grateful for all of your support.” – Cole Hickman, Senior Program Manager
“In my experience, soldiers returning from active duty, and specifically women, need resources and support to integrate back into civilian life. Basic things like housing, laundry facilities, mentors who can provide the kind of kinship, support, and guidance that they do not even fully comprehend that they need,” said Sherry. “I know that if I struggled as much as I did, that others who may not have the support of family and friends or education or savings that I had may certainly not make it through a similar conversion into civilian life.”
Sherry’s story is not unique, veteran women are four times more likely to experience homelessness than non-veteran women. It is estimated that, on any given day, approximately 350 female veterans in Arizona are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Sherry still considers her military service an honor and privilege, but the time following it was the darkest time in her life. St. Bernadette’s Place was created for women like Sherry who bravely served their country and need a little help transitioning back to civilian life. You can help by giving an online donation today and joining community partners, such as Valley of the Sun United Way, who make our veteran programs possible through grant funding and in-kind donations.
We’ve been proud to fund Catholic Charities’ MANA House which serves unhoused vets by providing shelter, case management, and wrap around services. Change demands bold new solutions for people like Sherry. Thanks to your support, we can realign our resources to support our community, and be a force for mighty change.
If you or someone you know need help overcoming any present challenges, Catholic Charities is here to serve you. Their staff helps people off all faiths and beliefs and they work in seven counties throughout central and northern Arizona. View their directory of services HERE and select the area that you live in to find out what services they offer near you. For questions, please call 1-855-316-2229.