KALAELOA (HawaiiNewsNow) -
At the U.S. Vets Kalaeloa shelter, there are twelve women who served their country, finished their tours of duty, and then found themselves homeless. Iris Carrillo was in the Army six years. A medical discharge forced her out.
"It wasn't easy for me to cope with that, and to deal with thinking like I'm going to be out of the service now," she said.
After Felicidad Bartolome served in the Navy and the Army, she worked in the food service industry but lost her job.
"I slept in a car. That was the criteria to be homeless," she said.
Both women are now being housed and helped at U.S. Vets. The organization's chief operating officer Darryl Vincent said a recent partnership between U.S. Vets and the Honolulu Community Action Program increases the ability to house more homeless female veterans
"They've agreed to give us ten rooms that can house up to 20 female veterans. And whenever rooms empty they come to us to make sure that if we have a veteran we can put them in. If not, they house them with their client population. It's worked beautifully," he said.
Bartolome has been at the shelter since March.
"Helped me find a job. Gave me a roof over my head, three squares," she said.
Carrillo is now working toward a college degree.
"I'm studying business management," she said.
A recent survey found the percentage of female vets living on the streets is increasing. Working together, U.S. Vets and HCAP are better equipped to handle it.
"We have a coordinator that specializes in working with the females," Vincent said. "We partner with the VA, and we see this as being a population that we need to address."
Since 2012, U.S. Vets has placed 31 women in permanent affordable housing. Bartolome and Carrillo are getting closer.
"Otherwise I think I'd be really living under a bridge or something," Bartolome said.
"It has been a blessing," Carrillo said. "I thank God for this program and this place."