Ending homelessness among our nation’s military veterans is a laudable — and more important, achievable — objective. In fact, key leaders and organizations in Minnesota already have had tremendous success, with more 200 vets on a statewide registry now off the streets. However, at least 160 registered vets remain homeless, even though many can afford rent or have access to programs that will help them.
The issue will be front and center on Wednesday — Veterans Day — at the “Keys for Heroes” event at the Wilder Center in St. Paul. The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul will welcome landlords and discuss a program from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, HousingLink and the Minnesota Multi Housing Association.
The program is focused on encouraging landlords to rent to homeless vets. Landlords and property owners will learn about programs that guarantee rent and screen tenants, and they also will be able to connect with a case manager in order to streamline the process.
As with the rest of the population, there are many reasons why some veterans end up homeless. Some have financial challenges. Many, however, have the ability to pay but have not been able to find appropriate housing. Some veterans face challenges such as chemical dependency, physical or mental health struggles, or even criminal backgrounds. But all can be served by an effort that unites key agencies with landlords and property owners who are willing to help.
“It should go without saying that having anyone who served their country living on the streets of their country is a shame, and has to be addressed,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman told an editorial writer. “We’ve seen other communities succeed. … We have a very generous community, and very generous landlords.”
And in fact much already has been accomplished through this generosity, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said. Landlords need to know that “we have support for them in all kind of ways, and they could benefit from open doors,” Hodges said.
The benefit goes both ways. Ending veterans’ homelessness would strengthen the Twin Cities.
“The fact that Minneapolis and St. Paul have come together to work on this is important,” Hodges said. “It’s a partnership we have, and it’s in service for those who have done great service for us. We ask a lot of military personnel, we ask a lot of them in their lives and we want to give a lot back to make sure they have the resources to succeed once their service is done.”
A grateful nation can best serve its vets by making sure they have access to safe housing, especially as winter approaches. In Minnesota, the “Keys for Heroes” event is a fitting way to give special meaning to this Veterans Day.