Veterans Column: Ms. Veteran America 2021 Airs Sunday, Aims to End Veteran Homelessness

By Vince Gangi, U.S. Air Force veteran and GCVF volunteer

Here she comes: Ms. Veteran America 2021.

What, Ms. Veteran America? Yes, Ms. Veteran America is a yearly event hosted by Final Salute Inc. to raise awareness for homeless women veterans.

Final Salute Inc. is a nonprofit set up by retired Army Maj. Jaspen “Jas” Boothe in 2010 to raise awareness regarding homeless women veterans and the lack of federal services to support them.

Boothe had firsthand experience with both homelessness and shortfall of aid in 2005 when she lost her home to Hurricane Katrina and was diagnosed with cancer. Her resilience and fortitude allowed her to overcome these crises, but it was then that she vowed never to leave a fallen comrade behind.

According to the nonprofit’s website, since 2010 Final Salute Inc. has provided over 15,000 housing days and raised more than $3 million to support over 7,000 women veterans and their children in over 30 states and territories.

There are an estimated 55,000 homeless women veterans nationwide and over half are single mothers. It is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

There are more women in the armed services now than ever before. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center report, women now account for 16% of the overall active-duty force, up from 9% in 1980.

A study conducted by the National Center on Homelessness among Veterans reveals that while the overall veteran population is projected to decline substantially over the next 20 years, the number of female veterans will increase both in absolute and relative terms.

In 2020, there were approximately 2.2 million female veterans, with growth projected to level off in 2035. Women now work in every career field as men, including combat. It is reasonable to expect that they will experience not only the same transition issues as men but others like being the sole provider for their children.

These additional challenges upon separation of active duty make women veterans three times more likely to be homeless than their male counterparts.

The Ms. Veteran America contest has been held annually since 2012. This year’s event will be streamed live from Orlando, Florida on Sunday, Oct. 10. The event highlights the women behind the uniform and honors their sacrifices and service.

The event is pageant-style and contestants are judged on several criteria, including talent, interview and military history. However, one of the more important aspects of a candidate’s campaign is her ability to advocate for homeless women veterans and Final Salute’s support of women transitioning from military to civilian life.

One of this year’s finalists, Navy veteran Theresa Melton spoke with passion about Final Salute’s programs and what they do for women veterans. She did not view this as a competition against other women but as a sisterhood of soldiers striving to achieve the goal of ending homelessness.

The current reigning Ms. Veteran America Mary Ann Hotaling has had the opportunity to meet with federal, state and local politicians. Among the takeaways from her visits with policy makers was their lack of awareness of the growing population of homeless women veterans.

Could this be, at least partially, due to the all-volunteer armed forces and with not every family being affected the visibility isn’t there? This year’s winner will have the opportunity to continue championing the cause for our women warriors and the need for greater assistance.

If you would like to see who is crowned Ms. Veteran America 2021 live or support this worthwhile organization, purchase a ticket at the following:

Are you a woman veteran or know one that can use the assistance and services of Final Salute? If so, please visit their website at to learn more how they can help.

Source: VC Star article from October 7, 2021