Non-profit helps female veterans discover their next uniform

Lauren Warner
August 26, 2018 - 1:01 am

Photo courtesy of Jas Boothe

There are an estimated 55,000 homeless female veterans nationwide; over half of whom are single mothers. Women veterans are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population and are also three times more likely to be homeless than their male counterparts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017 Employment Survey Summary, the unemployment rate for female veterans is higher, at 5.5%, than their male counterparts, at 4.1% . Female veterans between the ages of 25 to 34 have an unemployment rate of 8.0%, almost double their nonveteran counterparts.

One particular female veteran, Major Jas Boothe, knows all too well what it’s like to end up a female veteran statistic. Boothe faced homelessness, a cancer diagnosis and discharge from the military due to her illness almost simultaneously while preparing for a deployment to Iraq in 2005. When she began to research assistance for housing, a job and medical care as a potentially transitioning female veteran and single mom, she found there were no existing programs for people in her shoes. Boothe was told she should explore welfare and social services just like every other single mother.

“It’s unacceptable to think that with so many programs out there offering assistance to veterans, much of what is offered doesn’t assist the female veteran population,” states Boothe. 

Photo courtesy of Jas Boothe

Boothe created Final Salute Inc. in 2010 to fill that void. Final Salute’s mission is ‘to provide homeless women veterans with safe and suitable housing.’ Final Salute’s annual event Next Uniform takes that assistance one step further.

“When I came off of Active Duty in 2013, I realized I hadn’t dressed like a girl in a very long time. You give up a certain amount of femininity when you raise your right hand—so when you prepare to transition out of the military, finding that femininity [as well as your] presentation is an important part of the job search,” explains Boothe.

Photo courtesy of Jas Boothe

Robin Finnell, one of the event’s volunteer stylists, emphasized the importance of self-confidence and a solid outfit during the job hunt: “[t]here’s two images, the image you have of yourself and what others see—and it’s really important that they match in a positive way.”

“If you don’t know how to dress, it could hurt your chances at finding a job and there are many women that are unprepared and may not be able to afford the expenses of a professional wardrobe and headshots. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” Boothe adds.

Next Uniform pairs a team of MaryKay makeup artists, Paul Mitchell Salon stylists, a professional photographer and volunteers from the DMV together to create a one-stop shop for female veterans trying to prepare themselves for the civilian world and avoid breaking the bank. Covering make-up tutorials, hairstyles, suit fittings, shoe and accessory additions and headshots, Next Uniform handles everything that the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) doesn't typically emphasize when preparing female service members for the civilian workforce.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Warner

“I think this program has a high level of awareness for the needs of female veterans. [Jas] saw the need [not only for] advocacy but assistance. She decided to do this at a grassroots level,” says Lindsay Gutierrez, 2017 Ms. Veteran America, Air Force veteran and an event attendee herself, “Next Uniform eases a huge financial burden off transitioning female servicemembers.”

As a women veteran in transition, you need far more than a resume to ensure a successful transition into the civilian workforce. Next Uniform’s creation honors the service and sacrifice made as well as to supporting those servicemembers in need of transition assistance or simply looking for an image boost.

Comment on this or share your story at gethelp@connectingvets.com