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!
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.
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.
Learn about resources, services, and benefits provided by multiple state agencies available to Minnesota’s Veterans, National Guard and Reserves, transitioning service members, and their families!
Visit any of the following virtual booths to be equipped with an understanding of the programs available and how to access these resources:
The purpose of this event is to empower veterans, transitioning service members, National Guard and Reserves, and their family members with knowledge about available resources. Participants will learn how to get connected to Employment Services, Legal Assistance, Homeless Services, Financial Assistance, Veterans Benefits, Education, Healthcare, Suicide Prevention/Mental Health Services, Apprenticeship Programs, and Entrepreneurship.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations to attend this event should contact Shannon Sprouse at Shannon.Sprouse@state.mn.us by within 3 days of event.
Staff, partners, and friends:
In this time of loss, anger, and sorrow in our community, and as we reflect on injustice and hardship, we at MACV are keenly aware of the challenges that our Veterans are going through. For many it is trauma upon trauma.
Our staff are members of our Minnesota community, many are Veterans, and some are still serving themselves.
I am proud that we as an organization continue to show up, through our grief, for our Veterans, and for our communities that we care deeply about.
Please know that we continue to operate.
We continue to bring our energy, creativity, and compassion to our community’s Veterans.
If you are working with Veterans who are struggling, with housing, employment, or legal issues, continue to refer them to MACV.
If you are working with Veterans who are struggling in ways that we did not imagine before the past week, or the past months from the Covid-19 pandemic, please refer them to MACV and we will problem solve and serve those who have served us.
Please share this message to other partners on your team and in the community who are working with Veterans.
Be well as we repair our systems and communities to work for all of our neighbors.
Housing Story by the Family Housing Fund.
To end veteran homelessness, a unique public-private partnership has developed in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) has partnered with a private property management company – Property Solutions & Services (PSS) – to develop a referral system that prioritizes permanent housing for homeless Veteran households.
Three years ago, PSS had taken over management of a troubled Minneapolis building where a nonprofit partner was connecting residents to social services. When that project ended, Asher Gavzy, President and CEO of PSS, was inspired to pursue social services for residents. And with the statewide push to end Veteran homelessness in recent years, MACV was his first choice.
The partnership started informally. When PSS had a vacant unit, Asher reached out to Colleen Salinas, Metro Landlord Engagement Specialist at MACV, before listing it publicly. Colleen, working directly with Veteran households, helps determine if the unit will be a good fit for one of her clients. Then MACV ensures the Veteran household has a variety of support, ranging from access to a social worker, housing vouchers, and even funds to cover moving costs to help ensure the Veteran will be a successful tenant. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the particular vulnerabilities of individuals experiencing homelessness and further underscored the need to ensure that everyone is safely housed.
Veterans experiencing homelessness may struggle to find housing because of criminal backgrounds or rental history. Asher says that MACV’s support for Veterans helps mitigate the perceived risk of housing someone who does not meet PSS typical screening criteria.
“We took a different approach that said ‘we need more tools that decrease the risk of housing individuals with backgrounds. Now it’s a good business move, it’s not just taking a chance,” says Asher.
It’s a win-win-win for MACV, PSS, and Veteran households. PSS saves time and money by filling vacant apartment units quickly, while MACV helps ensure Veterans have a safe, stable home.
“Once they’re housed, they stop experiencing other issues,” says Colleen. “The Vets (in the building) look out for each other and hold each other accountable.”
Now the partnership is more formalized, with several PSS buildings under contract to reach out to MACV before publicly listing a unit. So far, 26 Veteran households have found permanent housing as a result of this partnership, and all of the Vets have been successful tenants.
For Asher, “it’s about getting people housed and keeping them housed. And it gives them an opportunity to build good rental history, so they can choose where they go next if they want to move.” After three years, Asher says he absolutely prefers to lease to households referred from MACV, especially now as the COVID-19 pandemic has made listing units more challenging and time-consuming. “You’d be foolish not to do it. It’s a financially smart decision.”
MACV is encouraging more property owners and managers to partner with them using the same model. And it’s even easier now than when PSS first began partnering with MACV, as last year, state funds have created additional resources to mitigate risk for owners who help Veterans find permanent homes. These include an initial incentive for owners, a vacancy loss fund, and a risk mitigation fund managed by HousingLink.
Shaun Riffe, Development Director at MACV, has an even greater vision for the impact of this work. “If we can figure this out for Veterans,” he says, “we could use this same model for any population with similar backgrounds or housing challenges.”
For now, MACV’s focus is engaging more property owners and managers around the Twin Cities to join the program. But MACV’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Peterson is hopeful that this approach can bring long-term change to how we approach housing.
“When everyone gets together and shares their best capabilities, we can do a lot more and house people differently.”
If you own or manage rental property and are interested in housing a Veteran, please contact Colleen Salinas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Message to all MACV Clients Currently Receiving Services – Call Us!
At Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, we are keenly aware of the struggles that many Veterans are experiencing as we cope with the impacts of the Coronavirus emergency. MACV continues to operate and serve Veterans, and delivering our services through phone and email whenever possible.
While we have assisted you in the past year, if your situation has changed and you are now facing uncertainty or challenges that are putting your housing stability at risk, please don’t wait – reach out to us now. Our housing, employment, and legal services teams are ready to support you as needed.
In addition to our direct services, there are a growing number of benefits and resources becoming available for those most impacted in this time. We are assembling a growing list of resources and information about our availability on our website at COVID-19 Link.
Call our staff today:
For legal support, call VetLaw:
We sincerely hope that you and yours are well, we want to hear from you!
Here is the statewide summary of the availability of County Veteran Service Offices (CVSO), DAV, Minnesota VA, and other Veteran services across the state of Minnesota, with notes on how Veteran and families can receive services and how to contact each office.
Check out these resources and feel free to share with others:
Minnesota COVID-19 Updates: www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html
US Dept of Veterans Affairs: www.va.gov/
Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 23): www.visn23.va.gov/
Area VA Medical Centers:
• Fargo VA Health Care System: www.fargo.va.gov/
• Minneapolis VA Health Care System: www.minneapolis.va.gov/
• St. Cloud VA Health Care System: www.stcloud.va.gov/
• Sioux Falls VA Health Care System: www.siouxfalls.va.gov/
VBA Regional Offices: • Fargo: www.benefits.va.gov/fargo/
• Sioux Falls: www.benefits.va.gov/siouxfalls/
• St. Paul: www.benefits.va.gov/stpaul
• Managing Stress and the Threat of COVID-19: https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf
• COVID-19 and Healthcare Responder Stress: https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/responder_covid19.pdf
• Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With COVID-19: https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources/fact-sheet/outbreak_factsheet_1.pdf