Minnesota marks another milestone in helping homeless veterans

Gov. Tim Walz talks at the state's Veterans Day event.
Gov. Tim Walz, a former National Guard member, gives a speech at the state’s Veterans Day event last year. He said Wednesday that five Minnesota counties have earned a federal designation for effectively ending veterans’ homelessness.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News 2019

Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that more progress has been made in Minnesota to end homelessness among military veterans.

The latest evidence is a federal designation for Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington counties for effectively ending homelessness. The five counties are served by the Suburban Metro Area Continuum of Care, or SMAC.

“They have cleared their housing waiting list for homeless veterans,” Walz said at St. Paul news conference on Veterans Day Wednesday.

Similar designations have been previously made for other regions of the state. Six of 10 jurisdictions have now met the goal; Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties, as well as the St. Cloud area, have not.

Walz said several administrations have worked several years on the effort to end homelessness among veterans. He said the progress is worth celebrating.

“I don’t think you should pat yourself on the back for things you’re supposed to do,” he said. “But I’m here to pat the others on the back and the people of Minnesota, for taking something that is hard to do but is incredibly important, and actually come up with a plan to make it happen.”

Minnesota has a statewide Homeless Veterans Registry. As of this week, there were 308 names on the list.

Rochelle Washington, vice chair of SMAC, said the system is in place to assist veterans but the effort continues.

“The work of ending homelessness is tireless and sometimes thankless, but change is possible because of the work we do every single day,” Washington said. 

In a separate Veterans Day effort, Walz and every member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation offered thanks Wednesday to the men and women who have served in the military and those currently serving.

Their remarks were included in the state’s official Veterans Day program, which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has hosted a state Veterans Day program for the past 15 years. This year’s 30-minute video of the virtual program is available on the agency’s website

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