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Vets Views: Homeless vets continue to be issue for service providers

Greg Remus

Homelessness of veterans is a concern throughout the United States. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless:

n 23 percent of homeless population is veterans

n 33 percent of male homeless are veterans;

n 3 percent of female homeless are veterans;

n 47 percent served during Vietnam era;

n 17 percent served post-Vietnam;

n 33 percent served in a war zone;

n 5 percent reside in rural areas;

n 79 percent reside in central cities.

There was a veteran's summit in Moorhead recently. I attended with other County Veteran Service Officers and members of Senator Al Franken's staff. It was important to make sure the veterans of rural Northwest Minnesota were represented.

Homelessness was one of the issues discussed. It was pointed out that we depend on State and County resources to address this issue. First from the State, there is the Minnesota Assistance council for Veterans (MACV).

MACV provides comprehensive program and supportive services to homeless veterans in three primary focus areas: housing, employment and civil legal concerns. In Hubbard County, MACV is crucial by helping veterans who are experiencing a short-term financial problem threatening to cause them to become homeless.

MACV will give a small grant to keep a veteran and their family in their home or get them into a home. The veteran primarily has to show the financial need and show how their financial need truly is short term.

I have worked with Paul Pedersen from the Duluth MACV office on several occasions. Typically, before I am off the phone the veteran will know if he or she is eligible for the grant. The simplicity and ease of their program is great!

Second, within our local community, we have the Family Homeless Prevention & Assistance Advisory Committee. Members of the council include MAHUBE Family Development, Hubbard and Becker County Social Services, Hubbard and Becker County Veteran Services, The Refuge, Rural Mn CEP, Lakes Crisis and Resource Center, Partnership for Affordable Housing, Headwaters Intervention Center, etc...

We coordinate resources within the county to provide support to prevent homelessness including rental assistance, foreclosure prevention and case management. A veteran will get the best result through this collaborative effort.

Finally, as to the VAMC Fargo, I strongly believe they do a very good job at what they do. The VA Medical Center Fargo devotes significant resources to combat veteran homelessness. And it is making a difference in the big picture.

But from our perspective the resources don't leave the major metropolitan areas. If we have a homeless veteran/family we can't help, (more often than not it is a homeless single veteran), we get them to Moorhead or Fargo so they can access those VA resources. The veteran can then use the VA contracted beds in homeless shelters, or the VA transitional housing units, or VA beds in Project Heart or other resources available from the VA Medical Center and Homeless Prevention Team.

But again, those VA services are not available within our community.

As always the purpose of the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office is to provide assistance and support to eligible veterans, their dependents and survivors in obtaining benefits through the State and Federal Departments of Veterans Affairs, and to provide benefit counseling, claims service, referral and assistance in a variety of other programs.

You can contact me at the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at 201 Fair Ave., Park Rapids, 732-3561.

Don't forget every third Thursday of each month; I will be at the Lakeport Town Hall in Laporte from 9 a.m. to noon and the Lake George Town Hall from 1- 3 p.m.

Have a great day!