Why she started an organization to help support homeless women veterans: 'Never leave a fallen comrade'

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Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-21 20:32:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- It's no secret that many veterans need help settling back into civilian life when they leave the military.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness among women veterans in Virginia increased nearly 24% in just three years from 2020 to 2023, with close to 4,000 veterans struggling to find a place to live.

CBS 6 reporter Joi Fultz spoke with a veteran in Northern Virginia who founded the organization Final Salute to help other women veterans find stability and a new future.

In 2005, Army soldier Jas Boothe got news, that she would soon be leaving her post in New Orleans and deploying to Iraq.

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Jazz Booth

"But I didn't make it due to significant events in August of 2005. Of course, Hurricane Katrina hit, and me and my son lost everything we own," Boothe said. "But 30 days after that, I got diagnosed with head, neck, and throat cancer. And I was unable to deploy."

After 6 months of treatment. She was in remission, only to be left with nowhere to stay after leaving the hospital.

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"The military and the hospital commander were like 'No,' well I don't have a home or job to go back to because of Hurricane Katrina," Boothe said. "And they were like, 'Yeah, that's a tough situation. A lot of people that in that situation, but there's nothing we can do because you're not fit for duty right now. So you have to discharge you.'"

And when Veterans Affairs wasn't able to help her immediately, Boothe says she ended up sleeping on her aunt's couch. She worked to get back on her feet and made it her mission to help other women veterans do the same.

"I started to just do some basic research on housing for homeless women veterans with or without children. And I didn't get any hits," Boothe said. "And I was like, 'You got to be kidding me.' And so it was at that point that I decided to start the organization."

She started Final Salute, a nonprofit that helps homeless women veterans and their children.

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"One program is our transitional housing program, where women veterans and their children can stay for a period of up to two years," Boothe said.

While their housing program is based in Alexandria, it's open to any women veterans in need. The program also helps with education assistance, VA benefits, and resume help.

Final Salute also offers emergency emergency financial assistance through their S.A.F.E program.

"You have 48 hours to you know, not be evicted, but it's going to take you 6 weeks to go through a program. You really don't have the luxury of time. We don't have that red tape," Boothe said.

Another program within the organization called Next Uniform also gives away free clothing, shoes, a makeover, and headshots.

"For someone coming out of homelessness, a new wardrobe is not attainable financially for them. And so we don't want them to have to choose between feeding their kids or being appropriate for work," Boothe said.

She also says the lack of help for homeless women veterans is a nationwide issue and a topic she hopes her work continues to shed light on.

"I needed to continue to be that voice. Not just because they're my sisters but because I went through the situation myself and I was absolutely alone. Part of the Soldier's Creed is to never leave a fallen comrade. And for me, I was going to continue to uphold that oath whether I was in or out of uniform."

Boothe says she says all you need to apply for any of those programs is your military records form as well as proof of honorable service.

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