For Ms. Vets founder, fighting homelessness is personal

Army veteran Jaspen Boothe, once homeless, shelters others like her

Jaspen Boothe, founder of Final Salute, Inc.
Sheri Manson for Al Jazeera America

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Jaspen Boothe, an Army veteran and founder of Final Salute, an organization that provides shelter to homeless female veterans, was once homeless herself.

While preparing for a tour in Iraq eight years ago, she was diagnosed with head, neck and throat cancer. The previous month, Hurricane Katrina had destroyed her house, leaving Boothe and her son without a home in which she could recover.

That experience compelled her to try to save other women from similar fates, she said.

With Ms. Veteran America, Boothe said she aims to draw attention to the plight of female veterans without making them look "like a bunch of birds with broken wings."

"We're always portrayed as weak people who have just been taken over and manipulated by our own military service, and it kind of overshadows all of the accomplishments and achievements that we've done in our military service," she said. "I wanted to find a way to talk about the issues, but I wanted to do it in a way that's uplifting, that highlights not only our military roles but traditional roles we have as women."

Since its creation, Final Salute has helped 125 women with children — one of the only homeless organizations that provide shelter to families. Most government-funded shelters that offer transitional housing don’t allow women to bring their children, forcing many to seek help elsewhere, couch-surf with friends until their welcome inevitably expires, or end up on the streets.

"I want America as a whole to step up when dealing with women veterans," Boothe said. "Still, exponentially, everything is catered to the men."

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