Intersecting identities are a prevailing theme in MACV provider stories. While we focus our services on Veterans, the nature of the U.S. military includes multiple generations and life stages. Case Manager and Army Veteran Amanda Hooper recently engaged with a Veteran in his seventies who recently suffered the loss of a close family member. After the remaining family decided to sell the house in which the two had resided for years, Ron* now had nowhere to live.

After reaching out to his VA case worker, who brought in MACV to secure short-term shelter for Ron, our team placed the Veteran in one of our partner hotels. Our staff collaboratively worked with the VA worker to address Ron’s barriers, which include myriad health conditions and no significant income.  The Veteran’s adamant self-advocacy to stay in the community where he formerly resided added another layer to the case.

“He wanted to be someplace where his ties to the community were,” explains Hooper. When Ron was approved for his housing voucher and able to secure a residence in his community where his “regular life” was, it seemed like this was an open-and-shut case. MACV paid for the security deposit, first month’s rent, and connected Ron with resources to furnish his home as well as a move-in kit. The VA also provided home furnishings to help Ron get established on his own.

However, shortly after moving into his new home, Ron discovered a bizarre complication with his Social Security payment: the Social Security Administration (SSA) thought he was dead. Ron had not received his benefit for a few months before this point, but multiple addresses and the flurry of activity to house the Veteran had put this situation on the back burner.

“I’ll give him props, he’s very much on top of it,” notes Hooper. Ron immediately reached out to both his case workers to problem-solve this latest hiccup, which is set to resolve during a meeting at the local SSA office in early March. Given these complications and the slow pace of righting inaccuracies, losing a steady address is especially disastrous for Ron right now. As a result, MACV decided to provide the Veteran’s portion of the rent payment until his payment resumes.

Coordinating the medical, social, and financial needs of Veterans ranging from 25 to 90+ is a difficult juggling act every provider at MACV undertakes. Working with SSA in addition to the VA requires the ability to function within different administrative structures, but the decisions made by staff at these separate agencies have equally huge impacts on our clients. Ron is lucky to have such a committed expert on his team as Amanda, and we are confident that Ron can look forward to smooth sailing ahead!

*Veteran name changed to protect confidentiality

 

In our first major award of 2021, the Minnesota National Guard awarded MACV with $60,000 to provide direct financial assistance for National Guard Veterans who otherwise do not qualify for federal grant support. The MN National Guard has the back of its members during these tough times, and we are proud to associate ourselves with such a strong branch of the military!
After a ten-year hiatus from giving to MACV, the Forest Lake Lions Club stepped up to renew our relationship through a $1,000 grant supporting general operations at MACV. Fraternal organizations like the Lions are longtime supporters of initiatives like ending Veteran homelessness, and we are grateful to the men and women who commit more than words of support to our cause. Thanks again, Forest Lake Lions Club!

3M rounded out a multitude of donations, both in-kind and financial, by fully matching $5,000 of YOUR end-of-year donations! Between the giving campaigns and value of goods donated to Veterans staying in area hotels through our placement program 3M has awarded more than $12,000 to MACV in the past two months. Thanks again for your continued partnership!

Abbott Labs reached out to us with a generous end-of-year donation in response to an employee’s request! Abbott awarded us $10,000 in an unrestricted grant. Thanks to the Abbott team for rounding out an unprecedented year for nongovernment funding with this lovely surprise.

Longtime supporter Michael Ott selected MACV as the beneficiary of his year-end donation made through the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation. As a board member of the Foundation, Ott has the opportunity to donate endowment funds to the nonprofit of his choice each year. Your generosity only strengthens our relationship with the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation!

Standard Heating & Air Conditioning is one of our steadiest supporters, donating in $25 increments over the course of the last four years. In total, Standard Heating has contributed $3,475 since 2017, as well as substantial in-kind gifts to MACV properties. Your support is appreciated now more than ever!

Graham Smith, the owner of Integrity Lakes Real Estate, has donated more than $18,000 from house sale proceeds to MACV since 2018. He educates his clients about MACV’s work and our cause to end Veteran homelessness, and we have recently expanded our partnership with his business by reaching out to his buyers at his request. We thank Integrity Holdings for this steady support and wish them a profitable 2021!

Minnesota’s Masonic Charities is one of MACV’s longest-standing supporters. Ties with Minnesota Masonry go back more than a decade, when the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and Minnesota Masonic Charities first teamed up to help support MACV’s efforts.

“Veteran assistance has always been a priority with the Masons, and remains a focus of Minnesota Masonic Charities,” said Eric J. Neetenbeek, president and CEO of Minnesota Masonic Charities. “MACV provides proven programs to Veterans who face homelessness while leveraging existing state programs. We have been very impressed with their outcomes.”

Grand Master Ethan Seaberg of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota agrees. “My introduction to MACV came partly through thanks from a veteran who’d used their services. By chance he learned I was a Mason, and he made a special effort to thank Minnesota Masonry for our assistance. Along with the support of Minnesota Masonic Charities, our Grand Lodge should be proud of our support of MACV.”

Together, the Masonic organizations have gifted nearly $350,000 to MACV, most recently with a combined gift in 2020 of $75,000 to help expand on the Council’s most promising programs for mitigating the barriers to housing many Veterans face.

Those barriers include complications Veterans often experience as a result of wounds both mental and physical. When working in partnership with MACV, many landlords typically will overlook tenant applications that list a history of, for example, past evictions or a criminal record correlated with addiction or mental illness.

“There are so many obstacles to people getting apartments,” said Brian Peterson, MACV’s Chief Financial Officer. “Our goal is for MACV’s programs to overcome those barriers and achieve housing outcomes for homeless Veterans otherwise not possible.

“The Masons really helped us support our Master Leasing Program, which was a catalyst for a complete shift in approach to how we engage landlords in our mission,” said Shaun Riffe, Development Director at MACV. “It was one of many examples of the Masons giving with an encouragement to also try new ideas and creative solutions to achieve our mission. The flexibility of the support from the Masons has allowed us to grow that program into what we now call a Landlord Engagement Program.”In 2018, Masonic support helped pilot MACV’s Master Leasing Program, in which the organization leased apartment units from landlords and then sublet the apartments to homeless Veterans. The program established strong relationships with landlords throughout the state, and provided stable housing to hundreds of Veterans.

The updated program takes out MACV as the leasing “middle man,” and instead supports the Veterans and the landlords with services to ensure each tenant’s success.

“As part of the discovery process, we realized we needed to address the needs of the landlords first,” said Riffe. “When a landlord gets a MACV client, they are fully aware of the background of the Veteran coming in. We ask landlords to look past those issues because of our involvement.”

MACV landlord engagement specialists work with each Veteran client and are available to their landlords should any issues arise.

“Landlords can call the specialist and say, ‘Hey, I’m having a problem with this client,’” said Riffe. “We have that relationship. It has led to almost zero evictions. In those rare situations when somebody does need to be removed and its not a good fit, we can arrange for them to move out of the property without an eviction on their record and work with the client to go the next step. Everybody’s understanding that there’s somebody there to help and to keep this going.”

The organization starts by placing one or two Veteran clients with new landlords to the program to build that working relationship. In all cases thus far, landlords are happy to accept more MACV referrals, and so the program grows.

MACV also worked to help launch the state-funded “Landlord Incentive and Risk Mitigation Program,” which provides landlords who rent to Veterans-with-barriers with incentives such as vacancy loss reimbursement.

With the help of Masonic funding, MACV has also added “Healthcare Navigator,” a licensed social worker dedicated to connecting clients with the health resources they need on their path to stable housing.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said Peterson. “We’re not doing this on an island, and our mission is much larger than what just our organization can achieve alone. We partner with agencies throughout Minnesota around shared goals to help those most in need to achieve stable housing.”

For more information on the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, visit mac-v.org.

Originally published January 21, 2021.

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!