Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Homeless women veterans can find hope at Athena House

YBOR CITY — A startling demographic among the nation's homeless has begun to garner increased attention from activists.

Up to 8,000 female veterans are without homes nationwide, including more than 300 in Hillsborough County alone. In response to these growing numbers, a Tampa Bay area agency is making strides to help.

The Athena House in Ybor City will house 16 women, offering 24-hour assistance, counseling, a place to sleep for up to two years and eventual job placement. The Department of Veterans Affairs awarded Athena House a grant last week of nearly $350,000.

The house is part of the Athena Program, a project of the local nonprofit organization Crossroads of Tampa Bay Inc., which runs traditional halfway houses and rehabilitation programs.

After months of preparation, organizers will join community leaders Monday for a ribbon cutting ceremony. The house is set to open Nov. 1.

Athena House will tackle the specific needs of female veterans, who often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug dependencies and adjustment disorders.

"It's not easy to bring people back from the brink of hopelessness," said Sara Romeo, chief executive officer of Crossroads Tampa Bay.

The only other residential program in the country that offers 24-hour support for female veterans is in Boston, Romeo said.

The VA offers counseling, support and help finding subsidized housing, but relies on help from local agencies for housing and other needs, said Carol Griffiths, the clinical coordinator of the Tampa Bay branch of the VA's Homeless Women Veterans Program. She has worked with the department since the early '90s and has noticed an evolution in the way the agency cares for homeless women.

In 2000, the local branch was formed to target the problems female veterans face. It currently serves 80 to 100 homeless women, 16 of whom served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

• • •

The Athena House strives to offer immediate housing, unlike other programs that have waiting periods. "I truly think what Sara has done is remarkable," Griffiths said.

The VA grant, coupled with private donations of everything from an antique bust of the ancient goddess Athena, to volunteer help combined to ready the historic building where the program will be housed.

The two-story red brick building was once a boarding house. It sat originally on 18th Street in Ybor City and was headed for demolition when Interstate 4 had to be widened. Instead, the state moved the massive structure to Columbus Drive and 13th Street as part of historic building mitigation project. Tampa Crossroads bought it.

"Hopefully bringing this situation to light will help other communities to start programs for female veterans," Romeo said.

Joshua Neiderer can be reached at jneiderer@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

>>fast facts

Athena House

A ribbon cutting with dignitaries from MacDill Air Force Base, Mayor Pam Iorio, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, state Sen. Arthenia Joyner and state Rep. Michael Scionti begins at 10 a.m. Monday, 1301 E Columbus Drive. The event is open to the public and female veterans in need are encouraged to attend. For information, call Sara Romeo at 238-5210.

How you can help

Items still needed include a 15-passenger van, three computers, two flat-screen televisions, two DVD/VCR players, weed trimmer, blower, edger, outdoor storage shed for tools, propane barbecue grill, porch furniture and cash donations.

Homeless women veterans can find hope at Athena House 10/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 2:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102