Center for homeless veterans to open in downtown Minneapolis

  • Article by: Mark Brunswick
  • Star Tribune
  • October 7, 2011 - 5:53 PM

The Department of Veterans Affairs has just signed a lease on a new resource center for homeless vets designed to go where homeless vets are.

The facility is near programs such as Catholic Charities and the Harbor Light homeless shelter in downtown Minneapolis. The Veterans Resource Outreach Center will open in February at 1201 Harmon Place.

The center is one of 16 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved nationwide as part of a new effort by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to end veteran homelessness within five years. Operating from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, the building won't be a place for homeless vets to stay overnight, but it will have day rooms, showers, laundry and a computer lab.

Most importantly, it will be located where a VA staff of about 30 can reach a large number of homeless veterans, coordinating services like primary care, mental health rehabilitation programs and, new to the VA, a homeless veteran employment program. Space will be offered to other providers to "synergize" programs that they offer homeless vets.

"It only makes sense for us to be closer to downtown where most of the other homeless services already are," said Jonelle Draughn, coordinator of the Minneapolis VA homeless program. The $3.6 million contract includes rent and the cost of construction for the 10-year lease of 9,500 square feet.

Although numbers are difficult to come by, the Wilder Foundation has estimated there are between 600 and 700 homeless veterans on any given night in Minnesota. Many rural and outstate homeless veterans might be staying with family or friends rather than sleeping on the streets.

Though there has been a slight increase in the number of homeless veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, the bulk remain veterans from the Vietnam era, Draughn said.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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