Homeless female veterans recover at unique Phoenix facility

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- President Barack Obama has vowed to end the problem of homeless veterans by 2015.

The Veterans' Administration this summer announced $100 million in federal grants to help, but a home for female veterans in Phoenix is run entirely with community donations.

Mary Ellen's Place opened about a year ago, and provides shelter for homeless and at-risk female veterans. A former doctors office in the Sunnyslope Neighborhood of North Phoenix is now home to up to 15 women.

"We're the first in Arizona and one of the only ones in the country," said Joan Sisco of the Veterans First organization. "Most of the women who come here are on the brink of homelessness."

Sarah Hallett, like many Army veterans, suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She moved into Mary Ellen's Place a few months ago.

"It gave me a lot of hope when I moved in here. As I get my life more structured, hopefully I can be more independent and healthier," Hallett said.

Rachel Gutierrez, a former Army Sergeant and disabled veteran, launched a campaign to renovate Mary Ellen's Place. It's part of her fellowship project associated with her work with "The Mission Continues," a service program for veterans.

"Just as a female vet, you don't want to see your sisters struggling," Gutierrez said. "Here they can heal and bond. It's like they're part of a unit again.

The renovations she has planned include new landscaping outside, and new fixtures inside.

Three female veterans recently moved out of Mary Ellen's Place, and are considered the latest success stories.

"They got jobs, got on their feet, and are now in their own apartments. That's the goal," said Sisco. "This is worthwhile. It's changed lives and will continue to change lives."
More information about Gutierrez' "Mission Continues" program is available at www.missioncontinues.org

Information about Sisco's organization, Veterans First, is available at  www.veteransfirstltd.org