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Identity & Community
Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Project Journey Provides More Than Shelter For Homeless Female Veterans

When U.S. Air Force veteran Nadine Nowlin got into a major car accident in 2012, her entire life changed.

“I lost my job, my apartment, my car and more importantly my health and my self-esteem, my dignity and my pride, because here I am homeless,” she said.

Nowlin is one of the thirty female veterans to receive emergency housing through the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania’s Project Journey for Women over the last two years.

The project provides fully furnished temporary housing for homeless female veterans with children.

Nowlin came all the way from Wilmington, Del. to find a home in Pittsburgh, because there were no similar services available where she lived.

“Pittsburgh is phenomenal in how it supports its veterans,” she said. “I am so amazed. I’ve never seen so much support and recognition of veterans.”

Nowlin spent six months living in a “beautiful” Project Journey apartment on the South Side with her 21-year-old son, before moving into her own apartment in Tarentum.

She now volunteers with Project Journey, and helped decorate the latest Project Journey for Women house in Crafton Heights, a three-bedroom single family home with a backyard on a tree-lined street.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith was on hand for the official ribbon cutting Monday morning, and said she welcomes veterans and their families to the neighborhood.

She said Crafton Heights United Presbyterian Church, which is right around the corner from the home, is currently accepting donations of household items and furnishings for Project Journey.

The organization launched its first temporary housing for male veterans with children in January.

Project coordinator Trudy Friend said she currently has two families to place in homes, and that the organization hasn’t yet decided which will get the Crafton Heights home. She encouraged more landlords to become involved in the project, calling it a “win-win.”

“You’re going to have your rent paid and you’re also going to have great tenants coming in,” she said. “We’re very diligent as case managers and case workers coming in and making sure the family’s taking care of the unit. And I have to say, the military population is pretty good about keeping things orderly.”

Friend said temporary housing is just one of many services VLPWP provides to veterans.

“It’s all about transitioning,” she said. “You’re transitioning a family into the Project Journey for Women and then you work diligently and intensively with them to get them back up on their feet … and move them into their own apartment.”

The organization also provides employment assistance, financial literacy classes, and help with accessing the government benefits to which veterans are entitled.

According to the VLPWP, young female veterans are twice as likely to be homeless and 50 percent more likely to be unemployed than almost any other population, including civilian women.  

Before her accident and subsequent spinal injury, Nowlin was employed as a social worker, helping people with substance abuse problems access treatment, find housing and gain employment.

She said it was humbling to find herself on the other side of the table, now in need of such support services.

“It only takes one thing in your life to turn it upside down,” she said.