Weekly Links for Resources and Solutions for the Homeless (Military): 5/4/11

1.   Homeless Women Veterans Need More Clinical Resources, Open Ears by Jessica Prois:

Paulina Hicks has always done things systematically. She went to college for civil engineering, enlisted in the military out of veritable love of her country and always kept a cinched-tight savings account. Now, as a former military officer, she can’t quite understand how her life escaped her fixed grip, forcing her to assume a new title: homeless veteran.

I meet with Hicks at her home in Cabrillo Villages, a U.S. Vets-funded women’s living center in Long Beach, Calif. She’s friendly and circumspect all at once, but she eases into talking by passing me some papers — face down and neatly stapled. The papers contain a few excerpts from her impassioned journal, recounting how she was verbally and physically assaulted and raped during her nine years in the service, leading to PTSD, homelessness and living in her car.

For the first time, Hicks is sharing the details of her story. She’s opened up some with her therapist, but she says even with her family, she’s become a good “faker”.

“Our families are expecting the same person to come back home, but the ones who served know we never come back home the same. The individual is gone for good,” she writes in her journal. “I didn’t tell my family anything out of shame and the pity I felt for myself for what I’ve had to endure.”

Hicks, who’s in her 30s, was often the only female doing in-flight management special operations in the Air Force and civil engineering in the Navy. But her plight is far from unique.

2.  Military Children Face Greater Academic Challenges Due to Relocation and Emotional Stress by Gabrielle Canon:

Michelle Hurley attended 12 different schools in six different states by the time she reached her high school graduation. She shifted between three different schools during her high school years alone.

“You just learn to deal with it,” she says. “I was in the third grade before I did a full year of school without moving.”

This is the reality children with parents in the military continue to face each year.

Hurley was on the move often, following her father, who was on active duty in the Army during her childhood. As he was reassigned, his faithful family followed, each time having to build new relationships and adjust to new surroundings.

Hurley remembers the frustration that came with each move and the fear that came with the midnight phone calls. Usually the wives of fellow military men called her mother for late-night support, relying on the solace of sharing their situation with others. She remembers how difficult it was when her father was gone, serving in the first Iraq war.

“You end up relying on your family to get you through,” she recalls. “You just lean on each other.”

According to the Department of Defense, there are currently over 2 million children of military parents in the United States. Military children typically attend between seven to nine schools before they graduate, moving approximately every two years. Each relocation brings with it the numerous problems associated with transitioning between education systems that may not translate. All these issues come amidst the emotional distress children face when a parent is absent for long periods of time, usually deployed to a dangerous destination.

Robert Blum, professor of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health elaborated in an interview with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), about the difficulties children face when forced to live this lifestyle.

“Military families and military children are amongst the most transient of populations. It is not uncommon to see kids who have grown up in military families who have been in 5, 7 or 9 different schools by the end of their high school career. There is very high mobility. With high mobility come issues of engagement, disengagement and reengagement.”

The Department of Defense found that children at different stages of development are affected in different ways.

Children ages 3 through 6 were found to exhibit behaviors of stress including regression, physical complaints and fears of separation.

Older children, who understand the reality and potential dangers associated with their parent’s absence, exhibit signs of fear, irritability and sometimes aggression.

Teenagers were found to be rebellious and at higher risk of using drugs and engaging in early-age sexual behavior.

All of these emotional responses can have grave implications on academic performance.

In an effort to facilitate better understanding of the issues facing military children, the RAND Center for Military Health and Policy Research released a study entitled “Effects of Soldiers’ Deployment on Children’s Academic Performance and Behavioral Health.”

The report found,

“Long and frequent deployments, with short dwell times in between, have placed stresses on Army children and families already challenged by frequent moves and parental absences. These stresses may present in the form of social, emotional, or behavioral problems among children at home and at school.”

According to the study, the longer parental deployments were, the larger the impact on child academic achievement. Children who participated in the study were found to have lower achievement scores when their parents had deployed 19 months or more since 2001, across all academic subjects.

In light of these troubling findings, government bodies and nonprofit organizations alike are searching for solutions to help support school-age military children.

3.  Anna Greenys, Arbor Park Middle School Student, Makes Bed Mats for Homeless Vets:

Anna Greenys is on a mission to help homeless veterans by creating handmade plastic bed mats, and she’s enlisted an army of local students to help.

Greenys, a sixth-grader at Arbor Park Middle School in Oak Forest, is collecting plastic bags, which will be cut into strips, crocheted into plastic bed mats and donated to homeless veterans.

She heard about the process of crocheting plastic bed mats from her grandmother, Letitia Savage, whose friend had made them with the Hometown Murray Ladies Auxiliary Post 9773. This inspired Greenys to start her project to show her support to those who have served.

“My grandma came home and told me, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea, I want to start doing that,’ ” she said.

Greenys and her mother, Marye, brought the project to the attention of Arbor Park School District 145 administrators and the Parent Teacher Organization and the project took off from there. District 145 and the city of Oak Forest have supported Greenys’ efforts by providing plastic bag drop-off points at all District 145 schools and at city hall.

Anna says she has always carried a strong sense of patriotism.

Over the next month, Greenys will be bringing collected plastic bags to Arbor Park so she and her classmates can begin crocheting the bed mats. On average, it can take one person nearly 800 bags and 40 hours of work to create a single bed mat.

With the assistance of her classmates, Greenys is hoping to make significant progress. Over the summer, Greenys and her peers will be teaming up with women from the Oak Forest Senior Center to continue creating bed mats.

Anna would like to see the project take off in other area schools and youth groups. She hopes it will inspire others to think about homeless veterans on a national level.

“It’s just kindness and compassion,” Marye Greenys said. “If a kid starts and the school starts, maybe someone will pay attention. Maybe something will be done.”

Photo credit.

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