Duval County is home to more women veterans than any other county in the state, and many of those 12,000 women fall through the cracks when it comes to accessing services such as childcare, employment training, housing assistance, health care, and mental health care. Women veterans confront many issues that men do not as they make the challenging transition from military to civilian life.
In 2014, WGA made a grant to a program collaboration between Dee Quaranta, who established the Northeast Florida Women Veteran’s Association, and the Emergency Services Homeless Coalition (ESHC). The goal of their program, called RestorHer, was to research the needs of female veterans in Northeast Florida through a survey, and then to develop a gender-specific system of care that addresses those needs. The project was very close to the heart for Dee, a 20 year Air Force Veteran who lived on bases around the world but found her retirement to Jacksonville quite challenging.
When the WGA Grants Evaluation team first checked in with Dee and Marti Johnson from ESHC in early 2015, they heard that the needs assessment tool, designed to be taken by 2000 women, had been developed and recently deployed to the first group of about 80 women. According to Dee, the preliminary analysis “confirmed what I had been seeing in the community for years—there were huge unmet needs.” The research team at the University of Florida who helped develop the survey made a preliminary analysis, and concluded that the assumptions about the need for assistance for this particular population were correct, and very possibly understated. Though the sample was too small to be statistically sound, 40% of women surveyed reported suffering from depression, and 38% reported suffering from anxiety disorders, and 28% reported suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Those numbers got Dee’s attention. She quit her job to devote herself full time to RestorHer. She now spends her time making certain that every female veteran in Northeast Florida has an opportunity to take the needs assessment, and is planning for the next phase of the project. Regrets? Dee has none.
“These women served their country with honor, but they need this community to act, and it’s important that we get this right.”