Female homeless veteran housing to open in Summit County

AKRON, Ohio - Dashua Holliday proudly served in the army for ten years. The Akron woman credits the experience with helping her grow and become a stronger person.

"It just gave me a sense of pride and made me feel like I was accomplishing something," Holliday said.

But her life after the military was a struggle. She became a homeless veteran as a single mother with five children and bounced from hotel to hotel. The family even lived in a car for a few days.

"It was very difficult, because all I wanted was to make sure my kids were safe."

Hannah Jamison, a veteran of the navy, understands Holliday's heartache. She became homeless with her baby about four years after she left the military.

"Just hit rock bottom and found myself in a bad situation and ended up homeless," Jamison said. "It's not just being homeless. It's being a homeless veteran."

The women became part of a troubling trend that continues to grow. There are an estimated 40,000 homeless American veterans, and female veterans are the fastest growing segment among them, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

During the state of the county address on Thursday, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro announced a partnership with Family and Community Services, the city of Akron and the Summit County Land Bank to create the county's first housing facility for homeless female veterans and their children.

"As the first female executive, not only of Summit County but of the state of Ohio, this is something that is very dear to me," Shapiro said.

The shelter, located on Arch Street, will be named Summit Liberty House. Rehabilitation of the brick building is expected to start in October with an opening pegged for the end of the year.

Akron already has the Valor Home, a shelter for homeless male veterans, but Shapiro said there was a gap for female veterans in the same situation.

"We pay as much attention to the women who have given their service to our country as we do for the men," Shapiro said.

Both Holliday and Jamison got back on their feet after getting help from services offered through Family and Community Services. The women now have homes and jobs.

However, they know thousands of fellow female veterans are struggling and believe the new housing will provide some of them with help and hope.

"It's going to be amazing for so many women and children," Holliday said.

A fundraiser to support Summit Liberty House will be held at the Akron Civic Theater on Sept. 27 at 5 p.m.

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