By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This season, WCCO’s “Home for the Holidays” shines a light on homeless military veterans.

MAC-V, or the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, has been dedicated to helping them find housing since 1990.

The organization also helps veterans experiencing other life crises. The group meets most of the vets it serves at events called “StandDowns.”

“We put on a StandDown, which is a one-day event for veterans to come in and gain services so they don’t have to travel all over,” said MAC-V’s Sue Worlds.

She has been organizing StandDowns in Mankato since it began 27 years ago.

“We’ve been providing StandDowns down in this area for 13 years, and we couldn’t do it without community,” Worlds said.

Inside Mankato’s Verizon Wireless Center, vets can find resources for everything, from housing, to legal issues, to medical care.

“We’re even providing coupons for haircuts, so if someone needs a haircut, we’ll provide them a coupon,” Worlds said.

Organizations donate their time to extend their services.

“We have Deaf and Hard of Hearing services, we have Marcy from the VA that works on the homeless programs,” Worlds said.

Veterans in need are made aware of what is available to them by a county veteran service officer.

“We like to look at our position as sort of the hub for all veteran services in a community,” said Veteran Service Officer Nathan Tish.

The StandDown puts veterans whom Tish works with in front of the services that are specifically there for them.

“It gives you an opportunity to get your veterans directly connected with the services and programs that are out there in the community,” Tish said.

The events would not be possible without community partners.

“We partner with existing community resources and we try not to duplicate or create our own,” said General Neal Loidolt, president and CEO of MAC-V.

Loidolt said the organization’s focus is helping veterans with homelessness.

“Last year we helped 1,750 veterans that were either homeless or in crisis,” Loidolt said. “And we are on track to help that many this year, so that’s the magnitude of the problem.”

Loidolt said it is the outreach of MAC-V’s partners that makes helping veterans possible.

“In the metro we’re partnered with Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, St Stephen’s, who does our on-street outreach,” Loidolt said. “Any number of partners that are involved in the homelessness effort overall.”

St. Stephen’s and other churches throughout Minnesota help identify veterans on the street with no place to go.

Other partners help make it possible for veterans to get back to the way of life they served to protect.

MAC-V hears from more than 25,000 vets seeking assistance each year.

You can help them serve vets by making a donation at MAC-V’s website, or you can simply text “MAC-V” to 41444. Money raised will support events like a special gathering next month at Target Field. MAC-V and WCCO will invite 300 veterans to enjoy a special program, featuring the Twins and musician Kat Perkins.

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