Occasionally, a story of a Veteran’s resilience and determination amazes even the most cynical listener. Becky Weise, MACV’s Red Lake Veterans Outreach worker located in northern Minnesota, recently worked with an Air Force Veteran rebuilding a life for herself and her two children.

Dorothy* first approached MACV to complete an intake after her brother engaged with Weise to ask for help getting his sister off his couch and working toward a stable life. Dorothy had couch-hopped and stayed with family for the past year and a half while losing custody of her children and sinking ever-deeper into substance abuse. She escaped intimate partner violence at the hands of her children’s father, who was imprisoned for his attack.

“She just didn’t care…she just had no interest, she wanted to be how she was,” Becky described as her first interaction with Dorothy. The Veteran received $140 for service-connected disability per month from the VA but had no other income. She initially wanted to apply for an increase in the percentage of service-connected disability rating she had, which affects the monthly payment amount eligible Veterans receive. However, Dorothy did not follow through with this goal and dropped off the radar, eventually blocking Weise’s follow-up calls.

All of that changed, though. Dorothy approached MACV for a second time in late summer, after connecting with a HUD-VASH housing case worker. Melody, the Veteran’s HUD-VASH worker, referred her back to Becky to help create a housing plan after Dorothy completed a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Becky, Melody, and Red Lake Homeless Shelter staff all partnered to stabilize Dorothy’s housing. Becky connected with the Red Lake Homeless Shelter Executive Director Jordan May, who secured a hotel stay for Dorothy upon her return from treatment. “I thought of the Red Lake Homeless Shelter right away because Jordan had just started a hotel program for [Native Americans] with close to zero income,” explains Becky.

Dorothy stayed in this temporary arrangement for two weeks before her HUD-VASH worker found an eligible property for her and her children as a long-term housing placement. Finally, Becky authorized direct financial assistance to cover Dorothy’s move and security deposit.

Looking ahead, the future is bright for Dorothy and her kids. “She’s doing well, I’m really happy for that,” Becky related in a recent interview. Dorothy’s next goal is to find employment, a process she wants to complete on her own. For now, she and her children are safe, happy, and feel better about what lies ahead than ever before. Great work, Becky and team!

*Name changed to protect confidentiality

Gov. Tim Walz declaring SMACV COC at functional zero.

Everyone who served this country should have a home in it.

Minnesota counted at least 308 homeless veterans on Veterans Day 2020. That’s 100 more than last year, despite enormous efforts by state agencies, nonprofits and volunteers to help the veterans who need so much more than our thanks.

On Veterans Day, like every day, Minnesota was working toward that goal.

On Veterans Day, like every day, we fell short. You can make a difference here!

James McCloden

“They were already walking that tightrope, and the pandemic just pushed so many people off the edge,” said James McCloden, an Army veteran who went from jumping out of planes to jumping to the aid of fellow veterans through his work at the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV).

The layers of disasters of 2020 — pandemic stacked on civil unrest stacked on recession — has left some Veterans with nowhere to turn.

“One thing goes wrong, two things go wrong, they can handle,” McCloden said. “But six things go wrong? I’m not sure I could handle six things going wrong in my life.”

The first thing that went wrong for Deborah Spencer was a broken leg.

The 52-year-old Army veteran had a career and a condo in Chicago’s Tinley Park neighborhood a year ago. Then she got hurt, missed work, ran through her savings, moved in with her sister in Rochester, Minn., and found herself in the middle of a pandemic, looking for a place to live with no place to go.

That’s when she turned to MACV and asked for help. Today, she’s living in Chaska and working at a new job and grateful to all the Minnesotans who helped her get back on her feet.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she told Gov. Tim Walz and a small group assembled to celebrate one bit of good news 2020 had to offer: Chaska and other suburban metro cities saw their homeless veteran populations drop to zero this year. You can make a difference here!

“You couldn’t have told me this time last year I’d be living in Chaska, Minnesota. I’d never heard of Chaska, Minnesota,” Spencer said. “But I believe things happen for a reason.”

One more veteran has a home. Three hundred and eight or so to go. Teams from MACV comb the streets, visit encampments and knock on tent flaps, looking for veterans who need help and are willing to accept it. Hotels or other transitional housing are often a first step toward rebuilding their lives.

They found one veteran sleeping in her van with her four children.

MACV staff moved the family out of the cold and into a hotel, where the children tried to do their homework in the lobby.

Shannon Gregory

“We realized we can do better,” said Shannon Gregory, MACV metro regional leader, whose team found a local homebuilder who offered the family transitional housing in a new home north of St. Paul.

“They went from living in their car, then living in a new home; now they live in a beautiful four-bedroom home,” Gregory said. “That is the impact of the work we are doing.”

It’s hard work, made harder by a pandemic that complicates every single step in the process of finding a home. You can make a difference here!

The pandemic can make it hard to house hunt or job hunt. The pandemic also makes it hard to get the basics you need to apply for a job or sign a lease.

“Getting I.D. — people don’t understand just how difficult that has been,” said McCloden, whose teams work with veterans for months, trying to smooth the obstacles between them and a stable, permanent home. “Without identification you can’t get a job. You can’t sign a lease without identification.”

No two veterans are alike; no two veterans face the same obstacles. Some need landlords who can look beyond a criminal record or history of substance abuse or a group home that isn’t in pandemic lockdown. Some need a home with space for their children and pets — not every hotel is willing to shelter a veteran who arrives with a dog; even fewer want to take in a cat, McCloden has learned.

It can take months to move a veteran out of hotels and into a home. For those months, MACV staff are there to serve the people who served their country.

On Veterans Day, there were cookies. On Thanksgiving, there will be turkey. On the days between, there will be people there to help. All you have to do is ask for help.

“There’s hope,” Spencer said. “Don’t give up.”

You can help today, go to www.givemn.org/MACV and have your donation matched up to $25,000 through Nov. 19th.

If you’re a veteran who could use some help, call the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs’ toll-free helpline: 1-888-LinkVet (888-546-5838.)

Over the past year, Edina Realty Foundation has funded the entire remodel of our Veteran transitional home in South Minneapolis. This week proudly showcased this brand new modern kitchen with their staff. They even brought move-in kits with all the supplies to get things cooking. Thank you for continuing to improve the lives of those who served!

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!

MACV recently broke ground on our newest project alongside partners Lennar Builders and Housing First Minnesota Foundation. The Housing for Heroes project in North Minneapolis will help provide Veterans with stable housing. Once completed, this 2,232 square foot, four-bedroom home will increase MACV’s capacity to serve more clients in need of a place to live. Housing First Minnesota covered the ceremony on their blog!

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.

Homeless Veterans on the Road to Permanent Shelter

A homeless Marine Veteran who found himself sleeping outside is on his way home, thanks to the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans.
The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) found Dale Rumble helping others even when he had no place to call home. WCCO’s Reg Chapman caught up with the Veteran on moving day, a day 29-year-old Dale Rumble has been awaiting for too long.
Shortly after I was hired at MTU America, Inc. in Mankato, I was tasked with either throwing away or donating all of the slightly used safety shoes that we had acquired from when employees left the company. It was clear to me that we should donate them to people who could really benefit from a good pair of safety shoes. Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans was the first organization to come to mind because they offered help to Veterans re-entering the job market. When most Veterans are looking for a job, they look in the construction and manufacturing industries.
Why was donating these shoes important to me? Simple: most jobs in the construction and manufacturing industry require their employees to wear safety shoes at work. But it went deeper than that. For me, it hit home when I remembered what it was like when I left the Marines and had to look for a job. When I was finally hired as an assembler in the manufacturing realm, I had a new worry about finding a pair of safety shoes so I could start my new job.
The biggest challenge that Veterans face when they get out of the military is trying to get back to some sort of normality. And if only a handful of these safety shoes that were donated make it into the hands of a Veteran in need, then the donation was well worth it. Even though the donation of slightly used safety shoes may seem trivial, it means the world to a Veteran looking for a break when everything seems hard for them — the smallest of gifts or a positive comment can give them hope that better days are on the way.
Choosing MACV as the organization to take the donation wasn’t a hard choice to make, as they do so much for our local Veteran community here in Mankato. I knew there was a need in the community and am thankful that I was in a position to help.
                        -Philip Daniel, Health, Safety, and Environmental Advisor
MTU America, Inc.
For more stories about how MACV helps end Veteran homelessness, sign up for our newsletter here.
Paul, a 54-year-old Veteran with two daughters, recently illustrated another success story showing how a relentless drive toward our mission fuels outstanding outcomes at MACV. This father and his 13 and 11-year-old children were couch-hopping, staying with whichever family and friends were willing to take them in. Kyle, one of our newer Housing Case Managers, started working with them during the COVID-19 pandemic. He quickly secured a hotel room for him and his daughters and then started exploring how to stabilize the family for the long-term.
Kyle recognized Paul’s situation as one of the more complex cases MACV encounters, and elected to heavily collaborate with his coworkers and in the broader community to address the family’s needs. He consulted a variety of staff in MACV’s housing program, legal services, and employment areas. This process led to Kyle and Paul’s decision to move the Veteran and his daughters into transitional housing. Accessing this resource allows our staff to continue case management and plan execution while keeping clients safe.
One of the challenges Paul experiences is difficulty self-censoring and reading social cues. He often uses colorful language and aggressive communication to engage with others, which adds additional barriers to his stabilization. Kyle built a strong relationship with Paul which allowed him to give the Veteran feedback about the importance of polite, well-mannered interactions with landlords and other service providers.
Paul impressed Kyle with his decision to take the advice to heart. “We came up with a plan to coach him in how to interact with people moving forward,” explains Kyle. “It was…cool to see Paul trying to protect my back because I have his back and working on the things I asked him to do.”
While perfect manners in every future interaction is unlikely, Paul’s story shows hope that with the right plan and support anything is possible. Even when it seems like there are no options left, MACV knows how to navigate these tough situations and find solutions for those who seem beyond help.
For more stories about how MACV helps end Veteran homelessness, sign up for our newsletter here.