Concerned about veteran homelessness, Minn. native competes for crown
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Jacquelyn Rosenow says she first became concerned about homelessness in veterans when an acquaintance told her of a 22-year-old veteran who was living out of his car.
"I started doing research and found out about Final Salute," Rosenow said. "Through them I found out about Ms. Veteran America and thought, 'If all I have to do is put on a dress and advocate for this, if I can make an impact, I'll do it.'"
Rosenow graduated from Jefferson High School in Alexandria in 2004 as Jacquelyn Kvilhaug. She joined the Air Force in 2009 and now, while deployed in Germany, is one of 25 finalists vying for the title of Ms. Veteran America as a way to better the lives of homeless female veterans.
"It's a competition for women veterans who are actively serving or have been honorably discharged," Rosenow said. "It's to help raise awareness about homelessness in female veterans, which is the fastest growing statistic in homelessness."
During its annual one-night count in January 2016, nearly 40,000 veterans stayed on the streets or in shelters, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of those, about 3,300 were women. Government figures show homelessness among veterans becoming less common, dropping 46 percent since 2009.
However, Final Salute Inc., an organization that provides safe housing for female veterans, says government statistics don't capture the number of female veterans who couch surf to avoid the dangers of the street or losing custody of their children. The group is backed up by a 2011 U.S. General Accounting Office report that found the government didn't collect detailed data on homeless female veterans and their needs and in some cases federal workers failed to refer homeless female veterans to shelter while awaiting veteran housing.
Ms. Veteran America partners with Final Salute, which began in 2010 by a female veteran who had faced homelessness.
The group helps provide transitioning homes and brings emergency funds to women on the brink of homelessness or currently homeless, Rosenow said.
Rosenow points out that while the Veterans Affairs does have resources for veterans facing homelessness, the programs aren't always ideal.
"Yes, the VA has programs but in a crisis it may take one to two months for them to respond to needs," she said.
In order to raise money for Final Salute, Rosenow is auctioning off items on eBay from Aug. 7 through 17. Included in the items is a custom longboard and a handmade quilt. The links to items can be found at www.crowdrise.com/mva2017jacquelynr.
The Ms. Veteran America competition will take place Sunday, Oct. 8, in Washington, D.C. For more information, contact Rosenow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff member Karen Tolkkinen contributed to this report.