MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In its effort to end veteran homelessness, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) offers legal resources to people who qualify.
About once a month, veterans come to the VA Medical Center for legal aid. Their specific reasons vary from needing help to providing it.
In a room full of attorneys, clients and a lot of paperwork, it’s no longer a question of what happens here. But the reasons why depend on who you ask. For MACV, it’s about prevention.
“We see a lot of veterans who are experiencing homelessness who went through a bad divorce for instance, right, and if they had assistance in that divorce, you know, maybe they would’ve gotten more of the assets or less of the debt that would’ve allowed them to sort of maintain their housing stability,” said Sara Sommarstrom of MACV.
Instability can come from any part of life. National Guard Veteran Skip Beedle was at this week’s legal clinic to help sort out liability for an injury. But he’s been here in the past because he knows they understand.
“The VA has attorneys that are very knowledgeable about military issues,” Beedle said. “I think most veterans experience frustration with the system.”
So MACV created its own system. Hosting around 50 legal clinics a year in Minnesota, with the promise that every veteran will, at the very least, sit down with a lawyer free of charge. Not all of the attorneys are veterans themselves, but some are, including Charlie Nelson.
“I have people who served in the military at every level of my family,” said Nelson, and attorney with Ballard Spahr.
Nelson says he helps because at one point, he needed it, too. And as he dedicates a few hours every other month offering his service pro bono, his true measure of success is in knowing his work continues to work.
“When someone comes back and is either continuing a question from the last time they came, or they come back and they specifically want to see me, then I feel like I’ve given them good service and that they know they know they can continue to get good service from the clinic,” Nelson said. “And that makes me feel like I’ve really given back to the veterans.”
MACV’s next clinic takes place in Duluth on January 3. Then again a week later, on January 10, at the V.A. Medical Center in Minneapolis.