Home constructed in Maplewood for homeless women veterans

“You use phrases like ‘You should thank a veteran,’ or maybe, ‘Support the troops’ and ‘We’re a veteran-friendly organization,’ and those are great phrases, and as a veteran myself, I really feel good about hearing things like that,” said Jon Lovald, operations officer for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. 

“What those words will do for me, that doesn’t help a homeless veteran. What the homeless veteran needs is action.”

That action, created in partnership between MACV, Builders Association of the Twin Cities-Housing First Minnesota Foundation/HomeAid Twin Cities, Lennar and the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors Foundation resulted in a new home constructed on an empty lot in Maplewood to provide transitional housing for five homeless women veterans. A ribbon-cutting celebration was held Oct. 4.

The house, which has been under construction since May, is located in the 2600 block of East Fifth Street, and will be owned and operated by MACV, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to veterans and their families who are experiencing life crises.

 

The fight to end veteran homelessness

Lovald explained that earlier this year, when MACV committed to ending homelessness for women veterans in Minnesota, there were 28 female veterans identified on the homeless registry list. MACV was able to connect more than 25 of those veterans with housing, but the list is growing, and currently there are 20 female veterans on it.

“Really, what that means is the word is getting out that there is an option, that there is an organization that can help. ... When they can see a tangible thing and know that an organization is there that has options for them, they will come out and ask for help,” Lovald said. “The number today is at 20. There’s five bedrooms in [the house]. You do the math; we’re taking that down by a quarter.”

David Nguyen with MACV said that the organization has some candidates lined up now to move into the house, though the exact move-in date has not yet been determined.

 

Getting into the house

Nguyen explained that when homeless veteran women are identified they are given an assessment to determine their level of need, and MACV staff helps them make a housing plan. 

“They have unique needs that other veterans don’t,” Nguyen said, pointing out that fleeing domestic violence and coping with experiences of military sexual trauma are two circumstances sometimes seen with homeless women veterans that create unique needs.

The goal of the newly built house is to provide transitional housing for some of these women, who will be able to stay there for up to two years. While living there, the women will work with MACV case managers to overcome any housing, employment and legal barriers they may face, and while working toward self-sufficiency, they will also be connected with other services for help with any physical and mental health issues.

The house is over 4,000 square feet in size and includes five bedrooms, four full bathrooms, a half bathroom, a laundry room, a communal kitchen and dining room, and several communal living rooms. 

It cost around $350,000, including the donated lot. Funding came from donations, with the remaining costs divided between BATC-Housing First Foundation/HomeAid Twin Cities, Lennar and MACV.

“Many of the subcontractors and suppliers offered products at a deep discount or donated time,” noted BATC communications manager Katie Elfstrom.

 

Additional houses

Bill Burgess, who spoke at the ribbon-cutting on behalf of Lennar, the construction company, noted that the house in Maplewood is the second home built for veterans via the partnership “and we look forward to doing one next year.”

Elfstrom explained that the first house is located in St. Paul off Minnehaha Avenue. She said that home was built for a veteran-headed family, adding that because the first project was a success, there was interest in continuing the partnership.

BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation is a nonprofit with the mission to provide safe, durable and affordable housing for those in need.

Elfstrom explained that the location of the Maplewood house was determined by a donation of suitable land for the project. An anonymous donor gave the land to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors Foundation, which then transferred the lot to the BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation.

The partnership is now seeking land for a future housing project.

At the ribbon-cutting celebration for the house in Maplewood, Kath Hammerseng of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors Foundation noted, “It is a fantastic day in the fight against homelessness in the Twin Cities.”

 

-Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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