$1 million to help homeless veterans

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 29, 2011 - 7:22 PM

Last week we told you about funding for vouchers to help homeless veterans in Minneapolis and St. Paul. This week comes word of an even more significant check: $1 million to the state's leading veterans advocacy group to coordinate homeless programs and assistance to as many as 400 veterans and their families around the state.

The money, which will go to the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, will help the organization expand its efforts to fight for homeless veterans across the state, particularly in rural areas where resources are scarce. The Minnesota money is part of $60 million in grants to 85 nonprofits in 40 states aimed at preventing homelessness among veterans and their families, with particular focus on veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kathy Vitalis, president and CEO of MACV, said the money will go to beef up staffing in their Duluth and Mankato offices for outreach and for emergency help for things like rent, utilities and moving costs. She said the money will allow her group to increase coverage of the four corners of the state. Most homeless veterans are in the Twin Cities, but St. Louis County and St. Cloud have high homeless veteran populations.

"Veterans in rural areas may be living in what are called uninhabitable situations," Vitalis said. "You might be in an old trailer with no running water and electricity. Those people are hard to get to."

On Tuesday and Wednesday, MACV will have its annual metro area "Stand Down," a phrase coined during Vietnam when combat troops had a lull in fighting and could go about personal business. It has come to mean an effort to provide a multitude of programs in one place at one time for vets who might need legal or benefit assistance, help with substance abuse, clothing or something as simple as a haircut.

The metro Stand Down will be at a new location this year: the Boy Scout Base Camp at 201 Bloomington Road, in Fort Snelling, off Hwy. 55, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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