U.S. seeing more female homeless veterans

CNN) — When Iraq war veteran Angela Peacock is in the shower, she sometimes closes her eyes and can’t help reliving the day in Baghdad in 2003 that pushed her closer to the edge.  While pulling security detail for an Army convoy stuck in gridlocked traffic, Peacock’s vehicle came alongside a van full of Iraqi men who “began shouting that they were going to kill us,” she said.  One man in the vehicle was particularly threatening. “I can remember his eyes looking at me,” she said. “I put my finger on the trigger and aimed my weapon at the guy, and my driver is screaming at me to stop.”   “I was really close to shooting at them, but I didn’t.”  Now back home in Missouri, Peacock, 30, is unemployed — squatting without a lease in a tiny house in a North St. Louis County neighborhood.  She points to the Baghdad confrontation as a major contributor to her struggles with drug abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. She says she’s one step away from living on the street.   Shortly after her discharge in 2004, Peacock said, she developed an addiction to pain pills. After her husband left her, she was evicted from her apartment, which she said made it impossible for her to obtain a lease or a mortgage.  She spent the next few years “couch surfing” from friend to friend, relative to relative.   “I could be kicked out of this house at any time,” she said.  Experts say that Peacock’s profile is similar to that of many female veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the rate of female homeless vets is increasing in the United States, according to the federal government and groups that advocate for homeless people.    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines PTSD as a type of anxiety that affects people who’ve experienced a particularly traumatic event that creates intense fear, helplessness or horror.   “You’re sitting on your couch and you hear a car go down the street, and you think it’s going to come through your house — so you kind of catastrophize things automatically,” Peacock said. “That’s stuff normal people don’t do, but if you’re in a combat zone on convoys all the time, you can’t help but do that.”  People in Peacock’s life “just don’t get it,” she said, “so you just isolate.”

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