To serve and protect: Increasing number of homeless female vets

Every few weeks a story breaks into the news about homeless veterans. As though our collective consciousness can’t really handle a frequency much greater than that. This week, it’s a story of Kenya Smith, who served in the Navy for 14 years. Smith lost her home to foreclosure recently and joins the 14% of the population in the US that is unemployed.

A former lieutenant and medical service corps officer, Kenya Smith first enlisted right after college. She earned two master’s degrees, deployed to Iraq and worked in healthcare and administration. She thought this experience would benefit her upon her re-entry into civilian life. As it turns out, it did not.

“I ran projects. I was an HR manager. I was a logistics manager,” she said. Nevertheless, two years after leaving the military she’s an unemployed single mother with two teenage children. In September she lost her home to foreclosure and is currently living in transitional housing.

Smith, a former lieutenant and medical service corps officer, first enlisted right after college but by the time she left had earned two master’s degrees, deployed to Iraq and racked up substantial experience in healthcare and administration — experience she thought would impress potential civilian employers.

“I ran projects. I was an HR manager. I was a logistics manager,” she said. But despite all that, Smith now is unemployed — two years after leaving the military. A single mother with two teenage children, she lost her home to foreclosure in September and is currently living in transitional housing.

Watch her story here.

What this kind of heartbreaking story shows me is that our economic structure really can’t withstand the kind of assault it’s faced as a result of corporate mismanagement and greed without spilling into every other element of society. Our veterans, who we purport to hold in the highest regard are victims of this economic structure and there isn’t enough help for them (or anyone else either, really). Also, notably, the gender gap in regards to the general workforce population permeates both military and civilian life in which women face additional challenges in promoting their skills and securing work that matches their qualifications.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted November 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    At every level of employment, mothers are discriminated against. Just when you need money the most in life, you are suddenly 50% less likely to be hired for any job as compared to a woman without children with identical qualifications. This is on top of the discrimination that already applies to women in general.

    • Posted November 2, 2011 at 3:32 am | Permalink

      I don’t think women are discriminated nearly as much as in the past. You can’t blame employers for not wanting to hire someone that might not have time to complete projects because of home responsibilities, this affects single fathers also. It seems like they discriminate against single mothers more because there are many more single mothers out there. I agree that single mothers need money more than most but that never factors in the hiring process and it shouldn’t.

      • Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Actually, I think the way the workforce and workplace is organized needs to change to reflect the fact that the core assumption it is based on — that the worker is male, with a supporting woman at home to handle childcare, food preparation, laundry and other activities that make working possible — is no longer the reality of most people’s lives, male or female.

        As for women not being as discriminated against as in the past, a huge amount of current discrimination is bad enough for me, even if it is “better” than some hypothetical past. You might want to have a read of this Cornell study. Men with children actually experience a net advantage in their careers, whereas the opposite is true of women, as discussed in my original post.

        http://uchastings.edu/hlj/archive/vol59/Williams-Bornstein_59-HLJ-1311.pdf

        • Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

          Wow I just read the beginning part and it was horrible. I’ll have to take the time to read the whole file. Look I admit I don’t know everything that goes on behind closed doors I was just saying I can’t blame a company for wanting to hire the person they believe will have more time to work. I have a lot to learn in this field since I have never been discriminated against at work. I might benefit from being a single male and just take it for granted.

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