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Chaska apartments part of effort to help homeless veterans

Star Tribune - 1/4/2020

A homeless veteran and her three small children will soon move into a newly remodeled three-bedroom apartment in Chaska, thanks to an effort to find housing for some of the almost 300 veterans in Minnesota who have reported being homeless.

"The Army warrior ethos states … 'I will never leave a fallen comrade,'?" said Randy Maluchnik, chairman of the Carver County Board and a veteran himself, who spoke Friday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"We in Carver County will strive not to leave our veterans behind. They answered the call for our defense. We at least can assist with ensuring that they and their families are sheltered."

The new apartment is one of four units in a rundown 150-year-old building that the Carver County Community Development Agency (CDA) bought for $400.

All four apartments eventually will be offered to homeless veterans, said Allison Streich, CDA deputy director. Although it's called "transitional housing," there's no time limit for tenants who stay there.

The CDA is partnering with Carver County and the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) to fix up the building, with help from private donors. The Chaska Lions Club provided about $19,000 to renovate the first apartment, with Value Plus Flooring of Eagan donating the flooring. Case workers will help residents find jobs and other support they need to get back on their feet.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is working to find "permanent, safe housing" for 295 veterans, the number of in-state vets who have reported needing a home, said Commissioner Larry Herke. The state also wants to help other homeless veterans who may not have contacted the department to ask for help, he said.

About 9% of homeless people nationally are veterans, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Veterans are sometimes reluctant to ask for assistance that might otherwise go to someone else, said Jon Lovald, MACV's chief operations officer and a veteran.

"They're trained to take care of themselves, right?" Lovald said. Vets "don't want to take somebody else's spot. It's drilled into you to be self-sufficient."

Many might simply not be aware of the help that's available, Herke said. Almost 100 veterans contacted the department after it spread the word at a breakfast last summer for veterans and landlords.

Gov. Tim Walz, also a veteran, has said he wants Minnesota to become the fourth state in the country to reach "functional zero" for veterans' homelessness. Functional zero means that any veteran in the state who needs a home can be placed in one within 90 days, Herke said.

The remaining three units in the Chaska apartment building will be restored as funding comes in. Home Depot has tentatively agreed to contribute to fixing up two units. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of Chaska has agreed to donate $8,000, and the CDA has applied for funding from the Housing First Minnesota Foundation, Streich said.

Katy Read • 612-673-4583

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