Shelter for homeless female veterans opening in Ravenna

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

A local veteran will settle into her new home next week after Family & Community Services, Inc. opens Miss Liberty House.

The ceremony, starting at 6 p.m. Friday, will be the county's first program to address the growing problem of homeless female veterans. The program will begin at 6 p.m. on Flag Day.

Because parking is limited, those planning to attend the celebration are asked to park at Family & Community Services, Inc.'s administrative building, 705 Oakwood St., Ravenna. Shuttles will transport guests every ten minutes to and from the event at the house on Crown Avenue. Hors d'oeuvres will be provided by Elegant Innovations.

Matthew Slater, director of veterans services at Family and Community Services, said the house will serve as long-term, supportive housing for one woman. He hopes the house is only the first in Portage County for female veterans, who are becoming the fastest growing group among homeless people in the nation. He suspects that unreported sexual trauma in the military is one reason that the Veterans Administration is starting to address the issue.

The house, which was vacant after a fire, was donated by local attorney Thomas Bird. Ravenna Councilwoman Amy Michael, who advocated for the house, said neighbors are excited about the change in their neighborhood.

Other contributors included Community Development Block Grant funds through Portage County, financial and advisory support from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Ravenna. In addition Dominion East Ohio Gas Company, General Motors' Women in Manufacturing group, Ravenna Real Estate Brokers, and Beebe Rebekah Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows have all contributed to the "Adopt-A-Room" program.

The resident of the house, who did not want to give her name, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving as a cook in Germany after the Vietnam War. After her service, she married her husband and had two children, who are now adults. Her grandchildren live in Cortland and Paris Township. Her husband died eight years ago.

She now is employed with Freedom Lawn Care, watering the flower beds in downtown Kent. In her new home, she's looking forward to planting flowers and a garden and having her grandchildren over.

"I think it's great," she said of the house. "They've done a marvelous job with the house. It's one of the few places we have for female veterans. We need more."

Family and Community Services operates a four-unit housing unit, Ravenna White House, for disabled veterans in Ravenna and a 14-bed transitional housing unit for veterans in Kent under the name Freedom House. Soon, 30-bed Valor Home transitional housing facilities for homeless veterans in Akron and Lorain facilities will open for male veterans, while the Trumbull County facility will consist of separate homes for up to 20 male and female veterans, including veterans with children.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

Twitter: @DianeSmith_RC

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