A Voice For Women in the Veteran Community
By Emma Castleberry
Alyce Knaflich, founder and director of Aura Home Women Vets, started advocating for women veterans in 2010. She was dismayed to discover the misinformation and lack of awareness about veteran benefits among female vets specifically. “Where the male veterans receive on-site job training programs, transportation to Veterans Affairs (VA) appointments, three meals a day and case workers to assist in goal planning, the women were receiving none of that,” says Knaflich. “Aura Home became a voice for women in the veteran community to bring attention to this disparity.”
Women comprise ten percent of the veteran population in America, with more than 80,000 women vets in North Carolina alone. “Women veterans served our country and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts, so we deserve the same respect, acknowledgement and benefits,” says Knaflich. “Our discharge paperwork does not reflect what sex we are, so why are we treated with different regard?”
As with so many other inequities, the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the challenges faced by women veterans. “More women veterans are seeking resources to keep their homes and apartments, to keep their utilities turned on, to make car payments and pay insurance bills,” says Knaflich. “That’s where Aura Home steps in. We assist women vets in accessing resources to maintain their current lifestyle.” The primary focus of Aura Home is preventing homelessness, “because prevention is less expensive than losing everything and starting over,” says Knaflich. “Not to mention the emotional and mental stressors these life-altering events have on the women.”
Three years ago, Aura Home leased a three-bedroom apartment and has since assisted more than 20 homeless women veterans through their housing program, as well as dozens more through prevention and diversion. Vivian Suber was referred to Aura Home in 2017, when she was facing homelessness. “I told them my situation and they paid for shelter,” says Suber. When Suber lost her job in August, Aura Home helped her search for a new one. They also recently helped her pay her water bill. “Aura Home was created to help women veterans, which are the most vulnerable of the veterans,” says Suber. “There are many needs for women veterans that can only be provided by more organizations like Aura Home.”
Aura Home is currently renovating a building in Hendersonville that will be able to house up to 12 women veterans. “We are dedicating this building to Felicia Reeves, a woman veteran that found herself homeless in Hendersonville and was later found dead in a New Jersey motel,” says Knaflich. “The Felicia Reeves Home will be a safe haven for women vets to recover from losses and get the resources and support they need to get back on their feet. Aura Home Women Vets is here to amplify women veterans’ voices so they can take their place in our community.”
For more information or to donate to Aura Home, visit AuraHomeWomenVets.org.