(Photo via facebook.com/WomenVeteransCenter)
For the past four years, the Women Veteran Center (WVC), a program operated by the Veteran Multi-Services Center, has been providing Philadelphia’s women veterans with vital services and a place for much-needed fellowship.
Philadelphia is home to approximately 63,800 veterans, and though women are the fastest growing population of veterans, they make up just under 10 percent of the general veteran population. They also count for 10 percent of the national veteran homeless population.
Many actively struggle with PTSD and military sexual trauma.
“Women veterans are out there,” said Army veteran and WVC Assistant Danielle Spencer. “We make up a good portion of the population, and a lot of people don’t know about us.”
The Callowhill-based WVC, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary last month, serves around 650 of those women, all of whom have specific needs that are often overlooked by the public and the government services that are designed to serve them.
Though the center offers everything from employment services and computer workshops to clothing and personal hygiene items, equally as important is the opportunity the center provides for camaraderie — monthly dinners, yoga sessions, wellness and mindfulness groups and a safe space to converse with kindred spirits.
“There’s a difference between having a larger space for everyone and a space for just women,” said Spencer. “We tailor our space to meet the personal needs of these women.”
Kate Fox, an Air Force veteran and Penn State Abington student who works at the WVC, said often times when checking into the VA Hospital, she’s assumed to be a caregiver and not a veteran.
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“You think of veteran, you think of a male,” she said.
When Fox left the Air Force, she found employment almost immediately with the Marine Corps, where she worked for eight years. It wasn’t until 2015 that Fox said she found herself struggling with the transition to civilian life.
“I had never really had to do it before,” she said. “I think female veterans especially, as far as readjusting is concerned, tend to have a little more difficulty finding and maintaining friendship. It’s hard to find other women veterans to connect with.”
The WVC, a trauma-informed space, aims to help foster those connections while offering women veterans access to all the services they might need during readjustment.
“I’s just a safer environment for [women veterans] mentally and emotionally,” said Fox. “Not that we want to be segregated, but when it comes to dealing with case management and the need for various services, it’s nice to be separate.”-30-
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