Many Veterans leave the military with skills and interests which align them with industries such as construction, transportation, logistics, and labor, which all have strong union presences in the American workforce. Employment Case Manager Ryan Schaefer, a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps with a background which includes carpentry, farming, and now social services, has great insight into the opportunities and challenges labor unions create for MACV Veterans.
“I’ve helped guys get up to date or keep up to date if they’re behind on their union due,” explains Schaefer, “That’s the number one that we use.” Other common interactions MACV has with local unions include initial payment of dues for new members, which are commonly higher than the maintenance payment existing members pay.
Why pay dues at all? Local labor unions often hold the cards for lucrative, stable jobs in skilled labor industries like plumbing and electrician work. Dues paid by union laborers give them access to these opportunities, bargaining rights, and protections from a volatile job market.
At least in theory. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on even the most stable unions, sidelining industries such as electricians and construction workers for months or even years. “[A Minnesota] electrician’s union didn’t even accept any applications in 2020, so now there’s a backlog of two years’ worth of member applications which need processing,” reports Schaefer. These kinds of administrative problems have very real impacts on the financial stability of Veterans served by MACV.
Barriers like reliable transportation across a physically large state with a wide range of work sites also pose challenges to Veterans who may not have a driver’s license or cannot afford a car. Paying upfront for expenses like a hotel room or other temporary living arrangement, then waiting for union reimbursement, often writes MACV Veterans off the list for high-paying jobs outside their immediate community.
Schaefer also notes that Veterans themselves often play a significant role in whether they succeed in the union environment. Soft skills MACV emphasizes in its Employment Services like monitoring job boards, using computers to apply for jobs, building interpersonal relationships in the work environment, and becoming familiar with conduct standards all play roles in the successful union member’s life. “We might have a guy who gets their first job after we pay their union dues, but then never finds another one because he doesn’t look,” he explains.
These simple oversights may discourage an inexperienced worker and have long-lasting impacts on their employability and ability to build experience on the job. Factors such as age, criminal background, professional qualifications, and reputation also contribute to a Veteran’s success in the union-tied trades.
At the end of the day, choosing to join or leave the U.S. military is a career choice. Bridging the divide between the military and civilian work environment is the most concrete divide Veterans experience upon leaving active duty. A shared background in the military and civilian worlds is an especially critical factor for working with the Veteran population struggling to succeed in their work life. MACV considers this team a critical element for the long-term stabilization of homeless and at-risk Veterans. Thanks for all the hard work, guys!
Wrapping Up Our Most Successful Giving Season Ever
The Housing First Minnesota Foundation is a nonprofit organization which builds and remodels transitional housing for Minnesotans in need. They have become a valued partner in MACV’s transitional housing program, and recently continued their support through a virtual gala and auction to benefit MACV programs on Thursday, October 1. Thank you for your ongoing generosity!
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.
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!
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.
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
***Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-14 on Monday, March 23rd that halts evictions in Minnesota. The full text of the Order is not yet available but this notice will be updated as soon as further details are known. Until then, please direct clients to follow the directions below***
The Minnesota Judicial Branch has put in place some directives in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Of direct relevance to those working in homelessness prevention are the court’s restrictions impacting evictions and foreclosures. Additionally, HUD has issued guidance related to foreclosures and evictions for single family homes with FHA-backed mortgages.
On Friday, March 20th, the Court issued new guidance on court proceedings, including evictions. This supersedes the previous March 13th order that had delayed most eviction filings for up to 14 days.
What types of eviction actions are impacted by this order?
What should MACV Veterans do next?
If a Veteran has a court date scheduled prior to March 30th, advise them to contact the Court Administrator in the county of the case and ask if the court date has been postponed or canceled. They should call now and once a week until they get guidance from the court (we have spoken with some court admins who don’t have the answer yet). You can find a directory of Court Administration contacts online at: http://www.mncourts.gov/Emergency.aspx
Many other legal cases are impacted by the Court’s March 16th order; for more information visit the court website at www.mncourts.gov or call the Vetlaw program at 1-651-200-4750.
On March 18th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions on single family homes with FHA-backed mortgages. This applies to homeowners and not renters. The moratorium is currently set to last for 60 days.
If this is just for homeowners, why does it mention evictions? In Minnesota, after a homeowner loses their property to foreclosure, they must be evicted to remove them from the property if they have not already left.
We are continuing to provide services to Veterans needing support during COVID-19 closures and social distancing measures.
If you need assistance, we are open and our staff is available to support you. Our physical offices are closed to the general public and for in-persons service, but our phones and email are staffed.
We ask that you call or email prior to coming to our offices or scheduled appointment.
Please call main line at 1-833-222-6228 (statewide) and we’ll put you in touch with a case manager in your region. You can also email any question to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our legal clinics will be cancelled for the next few weeks, and we will post new dates on our event calendar when can resume safely.
If you have legal questions, call our Vetlaw team at 1-651-200-4750 or you can email the legal team at email@example.com.
On a limited basis, we will have staff at our offices to provide services to those Veterans without any other means of communication. Our offices in Mankato, Duluth, and St. Paul will be closed for walk-in traffic starting March 27th.
If you or a Veteran or military family you know is experiencing homelessness or may need housing assistance, share this information with your fellow service members. Our MACV team is ready to help.
We are committed to staying connected with Veterans in every community across Minnesota. It is important that we protect your health and the health of our personnel. Our entire staff will be available to assist virtually while we continue to comply with the mitigation strategies set by our state and federal leadership.