Jaime Lutts loved her career in the U.S. Navy.
She deployed with USS Carl Vinson to the Persian Gulf and spent years working in air traffic control.
But after six years, Lutts said she was ready for a change. But after her transition to civilian life, Lutts found herself on the brink of homelessness.
Lutts was a part of a growing group of people experiencing homelessness: female veterans. Interfaith Community Services Executive Director Greg Anglea said a growing group of people they welcome to their Escondido center is female veterans.
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“We serve more female veterans now than we ever have before,” Anglea said. He said 20 percent to 30 percent of the veterans they now serve now are women.
The Regional Homeless Task Force, an organization which tracks the number of homeless people in the county, reports a 22 percent increase in veterans experiencing homelessness from 2014 to 2015. That 22 percent equates to 500 to 600 more veterans. However, over the past five years, there has been a general decrease from a 2010 peak.
Lutts, who spent her days in the Navy working in air traffic control, was honored for her achievements. Shortly after leaving the Navy, the new mother’s marriage fell apart. She found herself using her last dime for a room at a local hotel.
“You don’t think the way civilians do,” Lutts said. “You’re thinking combat zone you’re thinking fighting, you’re thinking standing by your brothers and sisters and when you get into the civilian world you think it is a little easier, but it is not.”
Out of resources, Lutts heard about an organization in the North County whose mission it was to help veterans like her: Interfaith Community Services.
“When I called Interfaith, I was kind of at the bottom and I had nowhere else to go,” said Lutts. Interfaith in Escondido served more than 1,000 homeless veterans in 2015.
The non-profit believes that, in order to serve veterans like Lutts, the best approach is a comprehensive one, which includes vouchers for apartments.
“Someone is so much more able to be successful when they are in their own home and not in a shelter,” said Anglea.
The non-profit additionally offers support services, career counseling and jobs programs for veterans, where veterans can get their civilian life together for the long term.
“Interfaith gave me more than they will ever know,” Lutts said. She is now working and growing at her new job. She told NBC 7 San Diego she loves her new life as a working mom who is proud to say she served her country.