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.)

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.

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.

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.

Brian Peterson, MACV CFO

Brian Peterson, MACV CFO

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 csalinas@mac-v.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:
(833) 222-6228
email mac-v@mac-v.org

For legal support, call VetLaw:
651-200-4750
email vetlaw@mac-v.org

We sincerely hope that you and yours are well, we want to hear from you!

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 mac-v@mac-v.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 vetlaw@mac-v.org.

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.

Serving ClientsAs we monitor the COVID-19 situation, our top priority is the safety of our employees, our Veteran clients, and community members while maintain a consistent level of client care.

MACV will continue serving Veterans but we are reducing our physical office coverage and in-person meetings consistent with the MN Department of Health and CDC’s new telework and social distancing measures.

We have staff assisting Veterans daily via phone, text, and email.  We understand that some Veterans experiencing homelessness may not have some of these resources.  We will be reducing our onsite staffing but will remain available to provide services to those Veterans without any other means of communication.  Hours of operation will be updated regularly on our social media, website, and through our partner agencies. Currently our offices in Mankato, Duluth, and St. Paul will closed to walk-in services starting March 27th.

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.

Contact information for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV)

Main Line: 1-833-222-6228

Email: mac-v@mac-v.org

Vetlaw: 651-200-4750

Email Vetlaw: vetlaw@mac-v.org

American Heroes Outdoors Television is a documentation of journey, commitment, struggle and healing. Our program is a tribute to this nation’s service men and women. Their stories are compelling and real. After witnessing the dangers and horror of combat, the outdoors for many veteran military personnel is a therapy.

No veteran chooses to be homeless, and our goal is to achieve “functional zero,” which means finding permanent housing for each veteran on the Registry. When that day comes, it does not mean we will never have another homeless or at-risk veteran. Rather, it means that our efforts will largely be focused on prevention. When homelessness does occur, the goal is that the systems in place will rapidly respond and make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran at-risk of losing your home or apartment, please call us today at 1-833-222-6228.