MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – WCCO is teaming up with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, otherwise known as MACV, as part of the “Home for the Holidays” campaign.

For more than 25 years, MACV has served veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This past year, COVID-19 has made it more difficult to engage with veterans in need.

A year ago, the number of unsheltered veterans reached a low of 230 state-wide. Then COVID-19 hit, causing that number to increase as veterans who once had homes needed MACV’s help to find shelter. The virus has also changed the way the organization can work.

“This year specifically for COVID, we built our own outreach team,” said Neal Loidolt, President and CEO of MACV.

Gone are the days of the traditional Stand Down, an even where all the resources a veteran would need are brought together in one location, from legal assistance to help with housing, jobs, and clothes.

MACV had to find new ways to get to those in need.

“Get out there, get to the camps, get under the bridges, get to the parking lots at night, and find veterans where they are,” said Liodolt.

Outreach teams found plenty of veterans on the streets during the pandemic. MACV then reached out to community partners to find a temporary place for them to call home.

“It’s the hotel program and it’s the transition program is where we’ve made our greatest improvement,” said Loidoldt.

Partners like Days Hotel made space to house veterans.

“We also reallocated resources to the hotel. We have MACV team members and they work essentially at those hotels. They’re checking in, every day they’re building that sense of trust and building a housing plan,” he added.

The new way over operating is not cheap, but it’s necessary.

“We spent $475,000 on hotel stays, right. That’s 6,066 nights of hotel stays since the start of COVID. Now that might not seem terribly efficient but you know what, it’s better than a shelter. It’s better than in a high-risk COVID environment. And what is does, it provides us with this secondary form of contact so now that we got you in a hotel we know where you are every day,” Loidolt said.

Veterans benefit from having access to that help daily. But they can’t do it alone. Your help is needed now more than ever.

“If you were wondering about what is MACV going to do with my hundred dollars, my thousand dollars, you know where it’s going now,” said Loidolt. “You know in this crisis that’s not money, that’s going to some future program or put in the bank, we are spending it as fast as it comes into the door.”

Any donation to MACV would make a big difference. Just $20 will help MACV provide food for a veteran or money for gas. $35 provides housing support for one day.

You can donate online here. You can also text to give. Anything donated on Nov. 27 will be matched up to $5,000 by a generous donor.

 

Reg Chapman