MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO is partnering with Xcel Energy all this week to highlight stories about how you can give a Day of Service to help your community.

It seems COVID-19 has changed everything, especially how organizations provide resources for homeless veterans.

The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) continues to work to get veterans out of situations that could expose them — but they have had to make changes in order to safely help those in need.

The Day of Service puts the MACV one step closer to its goal of ending veteran homelessness. Xcel Energy volunteers are helping put this home together for a veteran and his family in need of transitional housing.

Bob Frenzel is Chief Operating Officer for Xcel Energy.

“We’re completing it with garden boxes, picnic tables, flag poles, some of our smart equipment, smart thermostat going inside for the home, and we’ve dedicated some low-energy lighting for the home,” Frenzel said.

This is the fourth home MACV and partner Lennar homes has built to keep veterans off the street.

“One of the benefits of being able to put a family in this house is that it removes them from potential congregant living situations,” Nguyen said.

The job of connecting veterans to resources has been increasingly more difficult because of restrictions caused by the pandemic. Neal Loidolt, president and CEO of MACV, says It has forced the organization to do things differently, like creating its own outreach team.

“We’ve got to have our own street outreach team try and partner up with a community partner if you can, but get out there, get to the camps, get under the bridges, get to the parking lots at night and find veterans where they are,” Loidolt said

Shelters have become taboo for most, fearful of exposure to the virus. MACV has been able to get most veterans to hotels for safety.

“We spent $475,000 in hotel stays, right. That’s 6,066 nights of hotel stays since the start of COVID,” Loidolt said. “Now that might not seem terribly efficient, but you what? It’s better than a shelter, its better than in a high-risk COVID environment.”

MACV staff, practicing social distancing, help veterans staying in hotels get to the next step of their journey.

“We have MACV team members, they work essentially at those hotels, they’re checking in every day. They’re building that sense of trust and building a housing plan,” Loidolt said.

It’s a plan that eventually places veterans into transitional housing. Shannon Gregory is the metro regional leader for MACV.

“Veterans will cycle in probably for about up to two years, a family that would live here, and that will provide a situation where they would be ready for the next step, that is permanent supportive housing,” Gregory said.

MACV is accepting volunteers. If you don’t have the time, you can send a donation to the MACV website.

Reg Chapman

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