ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Five historic buildings at Fort Snelling will soon be home to homeless military veterans and their families. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place on Thursday for the $17.2 million veterans community project.

It was funded by a collaboration of public-private sector partners. It’s one step forward in the state’s effort to end homelessness among veterans by next year.

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Historic buildings on sacred ground. What once used to be home to the Santé Sioux Indians, then home to Army soldiers will soon be re-purposed to become the new home of homeless veterans and their families.

Five buildings on the historic Fort Snelling campus will be transformed into 58 affordable housing units.

The studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will help reduce the number of vets living on the street.

“I’m very proud of the progress that we have made. After years of hard work, Minnesota now has the lowest homeless rate for veterans in the country,” said Sen. Al Franken.

Minnesota is the example for other states.

On any night in the United States, there are more than 58,000 homeless veterans. Minnesota has 320.

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This new project will help Minnesota reach its goal to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

“We’re all trained in the military how to survive but when we come home we have to start surviving all over again,” said Marine veteran Jerry Readmond.

Readmond knows all too well what being homeless is all about.

He lived on the streets for years. Now, he hopes this project will keep other veterans from experiencing what he did.

Minnesota’s Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal said things are in place to reach each homeless veteran in the state to help them help themselves.

“There are plans afoot to identify who those veterans are and some of them are veterans who don’t have access to some of the typical veterans services because of various circumstances and just figure out how can we go that last mile together,” she said.

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The new community will have on-site services like health care, counseling, plus academic and job training.
The project should be complete by the spring next year.

Reg Chapman