Xcel employees came together on September 11th and 12th to complete landscaping and outdoor living projects at two of MACV’s Veteran transitional homes in St Paul.
The first of two projects included an extreme makeover on the outside of our of our older residences, which provided eye-popping curb appeal and rendered the home’s next-door neighbor speechless when he stopped by. The Veteran who currently resides in the home was amazed at the transformation and very grateful.
In between the two days of service, a representative from the Minnesota United Soccer team visited our new home in North St. Paul and donated a framed, signed jersey now proudly displayed in the home. Xcel also donated two smart thermostats and LED light bulbs to provide green energy solutions for several of our transitional homes.
On September 12, the volunteer group built a picnic table for our newest transitional home in North St Paul, along with five raised garden beds we plan to deliver to three other homes throughout the metro. Last but not least, the group led by Xcel President and COO Bob Frenzel installed a flagpole and American flag which now proudly flies in the front yard. What a great way to end the day and wrap up their two days of service for MACV!
Both days had volunteers of all ages lending a hand to support our mission of ending Veteran homelessness. It was so wonderful to see young kids pitching in to help and learn what volunteering is all about, which warms the heart. Great job, kiddos!
These two days were an amazing experience which will have lasting impact on the Veterans MACV serves. We cannot thank the Xcel coordinators and volunteers enough for all of the hard work that went into making this partnership a success. We look forward to working with you again soon!
When Dave* first landed on Case Manager Marie Pollnow’s radar, his recent housing story already included three chapters. Starting with his release from prison, this Veteran had initially stayed with a friend in her residence until her own activities threatened to violate Dave’s conditions of parole. Deciding that his freedom was more valuable than a comfortable home, Dave enlisted the help of his family to move into a motel while he figured out his next steps to stable housing.
While this story sounds typical for many of our Veterans so far, Dave had the rug ripped out from under him when the motel owner decided to nearly double the occupancy rate. Even with help from family and friends, Dave found he could no longer live in this arrangement and instead started living out of a tent. Moving on a nearly daily basis to avoid trouble and stay safe, our incredibly resilient Veteran still managed to succeed in a position as a dishwasher during this point in his journey.
Marie first met Dave after he started living in a tent, and one day after he managed to secure full-time employment at a local outdoor sports retailer . “It’s very humbling to work with him because he’s been through so much,” notes Pollnow. “He’s so grateful for every little thing we do to help him. He’s constantly saying, ‘thank you so much, thank you so much’…he’s just a model client.”
Marie worked quickly to find a hotel placement for Dave, who was working in the service industry full-time and experiencing unsheltered homelessness, two major risk factors for exposure to COVID-19. He currently resides at a local motel, a setting which he found “incredible” after life in a tent. Dave declared that the first thing he wanted to do was take a bath while listening to music, both great examples of the privileges so many MACV clients cannot take for granted.
These days, Dave is focused on “keeping his nose clean” and in good standing with his parole officer while the MACV team assists him with securing long-term housing. While this process can be arduous and frustrating, MACV can now promise Dave that if he stays out of trouble, he has a place to stay and does not have to worry about becoming homeless again. For Dave, that assurance is enough to keep him moving forward.
*Name changed to protect client confidentiality.
Shannon Gregory, Metro Regional Leader for MACV, sat down with Minnesota Military Radio to share how MACV combats Veteran homelessness in Minnesota. Listen to their conversation here!
WCCO covered our targeted work to get Veterans out of situations that could expose them to COVID-19, illustrating the changes we have made in order to safely help those in need.
“We’ve got to have our own street outreach team. Try and partner up with a community partner if you can, but get out there, get to the camps, get under the bridges, get to the parking lots at night and find veterans where they are,” CEO Neal Loidolt explains.
Watch the video here!
Community partner Xcel Energy has put in an enormous effort to enhance MACV transitional homes in St. Paul. They arranged for a representative from the Minnesota United Soccer team to visit our newest home in North St. Paul and donated a framed, signed jersey now proudly displayed in the home. Thank you, Xcel Energy, for so generously donating your time and resources to support Veterans in need!
The pressures associated with COVID-19 often add volatility to the living situations of Veterans who are currently housed. One such individual recently engaged with us, reporting that his current living situation is escalating and that he’s struggling with his mental health. Local case manager Kathy Kraft worked with the Veteran to identify communities which best fit his housing needs. She discussed the options she knew of in these areas with the Veteran and then enlisted the help of a fellow provider working at the Salvation Army’s local shelter to provide the Veteran with a temporary “landing place” while securing long-term housing. Remarkably, the Veteran moved into long-term housing at a property identified as a good match with his needs one day after arriving at the shelter.
Securing housing is only the first part of this Veteran’s story, however. MACV also assists Veterans to ensure long-term housing stability. In this individual’s case, he lost his job in January and has since survived on subsistence allowance, a temporary benefit offered by the Veteran Benefits Administration. This benefit is set to end in coming months, sparking the need for the client to figure out how to secure income in order to remain stable. After working with the Veteran to determine whether employment or relying on financial assistance is a better avenue for this individual, Kathy is now helping him apply for long-term benefits. This includes coordinating with the local County Veterans Service Officer to explore eligibility for Veteran-targeted programs.
MACV providers frequently partner with County Veteran Services Officers (CVSOs) to benefit from their expertise and knowledge of resources available to the Veteran population in their community. “My CVSOs are all awesome and welcome the chance to work with us,” says Kathy. “They appreciate the constant feedback and communication. It works well out here as for partnerships.” MACV considers itself fortunate to have such strong partnerships both inside and outside Veteran-focused organizations. We cannot fulfill our mission to end Veteran homelessness without this important support.
One area of expansion in MACV’s work to end Veteran homelessness focuses on specialized services for currently and formerly incarcerated Veterans. Justice Involved Veterans Coordinator Mikaela Hunley, M.A., works with staff at each correctional facility throughout the state to address the housing and stabilization needs of Veterans coming out of incarceration. She also collaborates with landlords, other community partners and MACV staff to meet the transitional needs of recently released former inmates struggling to reintegrate into society. Her focused expertise serving this subgroup of homeless Veterans closes an all-too-common gap in services which often lands Veterans in homelessness and then in the justice system.
Mikaela recently worked with a Veteran scheduled for release from Faribault Correctional Facility. The inmate qualified for 100% disabled Veteran status, entitling him to both financial and healthcare benefits from the VA, prior to his incarceration. Mikaela got the wheels in motion to activate these benefits upon his release, a process likely to take around two months to complete.
The case manager also engaged with the Veteran’s parole officer to learn about his conditions of release, which is often crucial in keeping Veterans out of the justice system once they’re on parole. “It helps [the Veteran] through this to ensure that he doesn’t violate parole and get sent back,” Mikaela notes. Lack of familiarity with the rules they need to follow upon release from incarceration often lead to recidivism for former inmates. Repeated offenses only worsen the cycle of instability, incarceration, and a resulting drain on community resources.
Restrictions on where recently released parolees can live often complicate the process to find housing, which was a reality for the Veteran Mikaela assisted. However, the incredible network of landlords with whom our team has cultivated relationships came to the rescue in this case. Mikaela not only secured a lease for the Veteran, but MACV also approved direct financial assistance to cover the client’s security deposit and rent for two months. The Veteran’s disability benefits should reinstate after this early period of resettling in the community and offer a stable source of income which can easily cover his living expenses.
Hunley’s work also includes exploring benefits eligibility and ongoing contact with parole officers to ensure compliance with the conditions of release each justice-involved Veteran has. Internal collaborations with MACV provider staff help ensure the Veteran’s transition to a long-term housing case manager and development of a long-term service plan. Thanks to Mikaela’s diligence and our outstanding housing team, we know that this individual is in good hands and has a fighting chance to succeed in the outside world.
The Mission Continues
A big THANK YOU to Joe Schwarzrock and his amazing volunteer crew at The Mission Continues (TMC) for completing a much needed deck rehab project at one of our transitional homes in Minneapolis last week.
TMC does such great work and we are very grateful for this awesome partnership, everything you do and have done in the past to ensure our transitional homes are being well taken care. It also means a great deal to our Veterans as well. We look forward to working with you on more projects coming up next month!
If you would like to find out more information about The Mission Continues and ways to help, please click here.