HOUSTON – In order to meet the growing needs of homeless, female Veterans in southeast Texas, the Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded a VA Per Diem Project to the Santa Maria Hostel, a 501©(3) non-profit organization located in Houston.
Officially launched on April 18, 2011, the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program (HCHV) at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) runs a program titled, “New VIEWS,” at the Santa Maria Hostel to provide services for 29 homeless, female Veterans.
“We are committed to the struggle against chronic homelessness among our Nation’s Veterans,” said Laura Marsh, M.D., Mental Health Care Line executive. “This new program is another way for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to bring Veterans in need of assistance together with the wide range of programs and services VA provides. Many times, people forget that females comprise 7.5 percent of the total Veteran population.”
New VIEWS, which stands for Veteran Initiative Empowering Women’s Stability, Skills, and Self-Determination, provides a comprehensive continuum of care through a wide variety of supportive services based on individualized needs. This includes transitional housing of between six months to one year, case management, referrals and information, educational and vocational services, life skills training, parenting classes, transportation assistance, integrated mental health services, and residential or outpatient substance abuse treatment.
“This is a place where a person must make a decision or choice on which direction to take,” said one resident of the new program. “New VIEWS helps you choose to change your life direction and get on the road to recovery and positive living.”
The Santa Maria Hostel has more than 50 years of experience serving women in crisis. In 1995, the organization was recognized as one of Texas' best-managed centers for the treatment and care of addicted women and their children. The Santa Maria Hostel features two residential facilities capable of providing a home-like environment for women alone and with their children while in treatment for addiction.
Five beds under the New VIEWS program are specifically reserved for homeless, female Veterans with substance use disorders. These individuals will participate in various substance dependence treatment programs after completing a 30-day Safety Net Program.
Veterans participating in New VIEWS must be medically stable, able to care for themselves, and remain alcohol and drug-free. Sex offenders and those requiring detox services will not be admitted.
VA estimates that about one-third of the adult homeless population served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Current population estimates suggest about 195,000 Veterans (male and female) nationwide are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other Veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.
Family background, access to support from family and friends, and various personal characteristics; rather than military service, seem to be the strongest indicators of risk for homelessness. About 45 percent of homeless Veterans suffer from mental illness and, with considerable overlap, slightly more than 70 percent suffer from alcohol or other drug abuse problems.
For more information about New VIEWS, contact Terri Riha, HCHV Grant & Per Diem Liaison at 713-791-1414, ext. 2848.
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