Vet court gets $107K donation to support homeless female veterans
The local veterans court program will soon be able to provide more assistance for the homeless female veterans participants.
On Tuesday, the court was presented with a $107,044 donation that will go through Veterans Mentoring Veterans, the nonprofit created by the program mentors to support court activities and participants.
The funds will be used to provide safe, clean housing for homeless female veterans, and their children if they have any, while their in the veterans court program.
Judge Greg Pinski established the local veterans court program in November 2013 and on Tuesday, the 55th veteran graduated from the program. A total of 124 participants have been part of the program since 2013, he said.
Twelve female veterans have gone through the veterans court program since 2013 and Pinski said five are currently participating in the program.
Not all veterans who participate in veterans court are homeless, but often times they need support with housing and employment while going through the intensive treatment program and court meetings to be successful graduates of veterans court.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, Pinski said that while veteran homelessness is declining in general, homelessness among female veterans is increasing nationwide.
Pinski said that “women veterans face unique challengers that increase their susceptibility to homelessness,” to include mental health, post traumatic stress and sexual assault.
Female veterans are also more likely to care for children, making housing resources more scarce, Pinski said.
He said that nationally, nearly 77 percent of homeless female veterans are unemployed, lacking adequate and accessible and affordable child care.
“When women veterans are afforded housing assistance, almost a third of the provided assistance fails to provide segregated and secure living and sanitary facilities, trauma informed competency or basic safety procedures to provide security for women veterans,” Pinski said. “Compounded with the difficulties presented by military sexual trauma and PTSD, homeless female veterans face substantial obstacles.”
Pinski said that the majority of female veterans in the local veterans court program had some history of sexual trauma either in the military or civilian life.
Pinski said the donation will be dedicated to helping female veterans in the program find safe housing.
“This home will make it possible for a female homeless veteran to feel safe, secure, to care for children, and to eliminate this barrier to obtaining critical help,” Pinski said.
That will be largely handled by the Veterans Mentoring Veterans nonprofit that was established in 2017 to help with activities and additional assistance for participants outside of available court resources.
Joe Parsetich, a mentor and president of the nonprofit, said they intend to rent housing as needed, provide furnishings and cover utility costs.
Parsetich said the mentors are working on their plan to find appropriate housing and are looking at options for finding a multi-unit option that could allow for another woman to live there as a kind of “house mom” to look after the veterans and provide some basic day to day support.
Parsetich said the program only has a few female mentors and could always use more.
Female participants in vet court must be matched with a female mentor, Parsetich said, and several mentors are mentoring more than one participant. That’s the case for both male and female mentors, he said.
The qualifications to be a mentor include: honorable discharge from the military; at least one year of unsupervised sobriety; and ability to pass a background check.
The donation was the result of a class action lawsuit against an insurance company for denying a claim for in-patient addiction treatment for a Montana teen.
When the case was settled, a fund was established for those in the class who might file a claim to get reimbursed for having to cover mental health or addiction treatment out of pocket after being denied coverage by an insurance company.
The left over funds had to be donated to an associated cause and the attorney, Dan Buckley of Bozeman, and the legal team on the case opted to give the remaining $107,044 to the Great Falls veterans court program.
Pinski told The Electric that while the housing assistance will only be for female veterans in veterans court, he hopes that it brings awareness to the need and that the community can find ways to address the issue.
He said that incarceration is a predictor of homelessness and that those without stable housing can also struggle.
“Being at risk of losing housing is a significant issue,” he said.
That can put a veteran who is seeking help for whatever issue they may be facing in an even more vulnerable spot if they can’t focus on their treatment while dealing with housing instability.
According to 2018 data, there were 261 homeless people in Great Falls during the point in time survey, which is conducted in January. Of those 24 were veterans, all were male.
According to the 2019 data, there were 222 homeless people in Great Falls during the point in time survey. Of those, 14 were veterans, all were male.
Want to be a mentor for veterans court or donate to the mentors non-profit? Call Joe Parsetich at 788-2335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.