Lyndsey Jennings never thought she would ever find herself homeless after her 2 year enlistment in the US Air Force, and then married life, but this is exactly what has happened to her. There is no doubt that homelessness remains a problem in the United States. The homeless rates of veterans remain high, to our enduring embarrassment, and even with national and statewide programs to solve the problem, too many of our heroes remain on the street.
It’s not just male veterans that are at risk, however; the rates of homeless women veterans is much higher than it should be and more attention needs to be directed at this problem. According to a study conducted by Project Muse in 2010, women veterans were three to four times more likely to become homeless when compared to non-veteran women. The primary causes of homeless women veterans included unemployment, disability, poor health, lack of treatment for PTSD and/or anxiety problems.
Like other female homeless veterans, the early signs could have and should have been detected during her time in the military. Lyndsey’s journey started by being an untreated ADHD soldier while in the service. Her condition was noted according to her to her Air Force recruiter, but it was never followed up during her time in the service. After two years at her duty station she left the military and entered the civilian life, where her condition continued untreated.
She soon married and had children, only to fall victim of an abusive husband where she found herself in a woman’s shelter for battered women. Unable to really take care of her two boys at the time, she put them up for adoption to a family. Lyndsey struggled to live and found herself living for almost a year in her car with her daughter, and quickly learned how to survive in her new world.
This summer, while living in the basement of a house with her daughter she contacted Jim Lindenmayer from the Cherokee County Homeless Veteran program. The day she called, her SUV broke down in a church parking lot just outside of Canton on Highway 20. Jim understood that this veteran was in need of a lot of help and that it needed to be done a day at a time.
Over the next couple of weeks, Jim and Lyndsey worked on a plan to address one issue at a time. First it was getting her vehicle fixed as it just had the transmission fixed, secondly housing and food, then a benefits review, and then a job. Jim enlisted a number of local and federal support groups to help, to include MUST Ministries in Canton headed up by Kendall Jones. For housing Jim reached out to HOPE Atlanta, which is the agency that covers Cherokee County for a special veteran housing program called Supportive Services for Veterans with Families or SSVF.
Other support programs were also supportive to help Lyndsey, but one that was not helpful was the VA. According to the VA, Lyndsey did not serve 24 consecutive months of service, she had 22 and according to a 1980 program by the Government, she is not currently eligible for veteran benefits. This has been appealed to the VA and is awaiting final decision.
Today, she has a job, and through the SSVF program and donations to the Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program we have been able to help her pay her monthly rent. Recently, at a Cherokee Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Lyndsey was the beneficiary of a local unnamed donor who is going to help pay her rent for a few months which caught her totally by surprise.
It has been a long road for Lyndsey to get her life back and return to being part of the community and we applaud her for how far she has come, commented CCHV Program Director Jim Lindenmayer. We are expecting good things from her and someday, she will pay it forward to help another veteran. Lindenmayer went on to add that “our program does not do any charity work, rather every veteran that we help has earned it whether they served two years or twenty years in the service.”
Recently Lyndsey has signed up to join American Legion Thomas M. Brady Post 45 in Canton, GA and is looking to help pay it forward to other veterans in need.