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  • Mericle, Wesley A.
    Air Force Airman 1st Class Wesley A. Mericle graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
  • Barr, Timothy E.
    U.S. Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Timothy E. Barr graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
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    Air Force Airman Ashley D. Frey graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
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Aid eludes homeless female vets

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue, more and more female veterans are becoming homeless.

The number has doubled in the past decade, with an estimated 6,500 homeless female veterans in the country – about 5 percent of the homeless veteran population.

Homeless advocates said the trend is particularly troubling because so few programs cater to homeless female veterans.

Locally, aid workers said they’re seeing similar trends.

“You have more women in the military these days than you ever had before,” said Charles Haenlein, president of HVAF of Indiana, which helps homeless veterans and their families. “And if you have more women in there, you also have more women that end up homeless. Nationally, the number of homeless veterans that were women was 2 (percent) or 3 percent, 10 years ago. Now, in some places it’s as high as 8 (percent) or 9 percent.”

In Indiana, Haenlein reports that women make up 5 percent of all the homeless veterans, which the Indiana VA puts at 3,600.

Naomi Nicastro, homeless coordinator at Fort Wayne’s VA Medical Center, said she has put at least six formerly homeless female veterans in their own apartments during her three years with the Fort Wayne VA. Two of those women were veterans of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nicastro said she’s seeing more female veterans, though the numbers are small. When they come forward, she often struggles to find available temporary housing in Fort Wayne. Although there are temporary homes like Charis House open for women with families, they are often full, Nicastro said. And the options for single female veterans are virtually non-existent.

“The problem is when we do see them, there aren’t as many resources in the community,” Nicastro said. “There’s no place for them to go.”

dhaynie@jg.net

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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