May 28, 2012
Four years ago, Veronica Witherspoon was stationed in Baghdad, enduring roiling sandstorms and nearly daily rocket fire as she worked as a Navy petty officer at Camp Victory.
By January, she had left the military, lost her job as a civilian contractor, split with her husband and ended up virtually homeless, bunking with family members. Deeply ashamed of her predicament and desperate for a way out, she ran across a story on a military Web site about a new program for female veterans called Final Salute.
The shelter for female vets opened its doors in a quiet Fairfax County cul-de-sac in November. The group home, the brainchild of an Army captain who was once homeless, is one of a small but growing number of women-only shelters that have opened up across the country to cater to a rising number of women who have wound up on the street after their military service.
In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has made strides in a campaign to end veteran homelessness by 2015. Although the overall number of homeless veterans declined 12 percent between 2010 and 2011, the number of homeless female veterans is increasing, the VA said in a draft report this month. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless veteran population.