Progress seen on ending homelessness among veterans in Minnesota

A blue apartment building
An example of affordable housing for veterans provided through state partnerships.
Courtesy photo

After reaching a five-year high, a state registry of veterans who are experiencing homelessness is showing signs of progress.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with Built for Zero, an organization aiming to end homelessness within large cities. The partners created a list statewide for veterans experiencing homelessness, the Homeless Veteran Registry or HVR.

If an individual is looking for housing support, every other week they have the option to participate in a conference consultation, to map out a plan to help them find permanent housing.

Earlier this year, the registry grew to around 340 people, the highest number since 2018, according to Derek Holt, homeless program supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Holt said a trend that was noted was a struggle to afford rent or mortgage due to inflation. This fall, the number of veterans on the registry dropped by 15 percent to around 290. Holt said it has much to do with a different strategy they used to attack homelessness.

“... us changing the way that we identify prevention, making sure that we identify veterans as they are possibly going to start experiencing homelessness, doing a lot of work at prevention, or eviction courts, to connect with veterans and try to use some of our resources to keep them in housing,” he said.

One of those resources is the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, which offers apartment style housing throughout the Twin Cities, Duluth, Mankato and St. Cloud.

In 2022, over 400 veterans who had been experiencing homelessness were housed within this organization. Holt said MAC-V helps out with a lot of their identification, direct veteran assistance and helps veterans navigate out of homelessness.

“The fact that we have one touchpoint really helps and kind of creates less confusion, and connects veterans to one organization,” he said.

Kally Canfield, system improvement advisor at Built for Zero, said she appreciates the amount of work state politicians have put toward this effort.

“I will just highlight the incredible leadership statewide that the state of Minnesota has on this effort and the commitment. I’ve been really impressed by the leadership, and the investment that's happening at a state level,” said Canfield.

While speaking at Minnesota's official Veterans Day ceremony earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said she and her colleagues helped MAC-V secure $750,000 in federal funds to convert a hotel in Robbinsdale to housing for veterans experiencing homelessness.

“No veteran in the state or in this country should be homeless. I believe housing is a human right and everyone should have a stable affordable place to lay their head at night to call home,” Omar said.