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.
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!
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.
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 email@example.com.