Chaska’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon chapter is teaming up with MACV to host a golf tournament and silent auction on September 2, 2021, with proceeds benefitting the expansion of housing options for Veterans at-risk or experiencing homelessness in Carver County. Hosted at Deer Run Golf Club, we cannot wait to enjoy the beautiful September weather with our longtime supporters and hit the course! For more details, please watch the short video created to spread the word about this event.
We are thrilled to announce the award of a one-time grant from the Ordean Foundation, which serves the Northeast region of Minnesota. The end of Veteran homelessness in Duluth and the surrounding area is within our sights this year, and the Foundation’s award is meant to give MACV the lift we need to close the final gap between our goal and where we stand today. Thanks for your faith in our mission, Ordean!
The City of Duluth has generously awarded $50,000 to MACV for our outreach and housing work in Duluth!
We have partnered with the City for several years and through a number of funding awards. Our remarkable North Minnesota team is integral in the ongoing relationship with this funder, and we are proud to consider ourselves a partner with the City of Duluth in the fight to end Veteran homelessness. Thanks for your support, Duluth!
Volunteers from Minnesota Army National Guard OCS Class 65 came out on a cool spring morning to help us tear down a garage for our next project. Thanks for taking care of your brothers and sisters in arms, Class 65!
Lost Sanity Brewing was absolutely amazing! Thank you to everyone that came and enjoyed the day and to those that donated. Huge thank you to the brewery for their support and bringing awareness to Veteran homelessness in Minnesota. Your efforts raised $3,094 for local Veterans in need. The outpouring of support was terrific and we are overjoyed by your partnership!
The Mankato Elks Lodge is proud to partner with MACV’s southern region team in pursuit of our shared goal of assisting the local Veteran community. The Mankato Elks Lodge appreciates that MACV is on the front lines and can easily assess needs and eligibility for the Elks programs. We are blessed to have several current and former MACV employees join our Lodge to help further our mutual goals.
This collaborative partnership has taken many forms over the years; the Lodge has supported MACV by providing vouchers for food or fuel, fundraising assistance, strong partnership in local Stand Down events, and otherwise providing Veterans help in their time of need. The Mankato Elks Lodge also launched their “Welcome Home Kits Program” 5 years ago, specifying MACV Veterans as the recipients of their generosity. The kits provide many household items to MACV Veterans moving into housing after an episode of homelessness.
With more than 1.1 million members in more than 2,100 Lodges nationwide, the Elks is one of the largest and most active fraternal organizations in the United States, as well as the largest civilian-run Veteran-focused organization.
“So long as there are Veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”
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!
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!
“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.
“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.”
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.)