By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Once again this year we are teaming up with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans as part of our 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, but MACV is committed to continuing to serve their community.

A year ago, numbers of unsheltered veterans reached a low of 230 statewide. Then the pandemic hit, causing that number to increase as veterans who were once housed, needed MACV’s help to find shelter.

The virus also changed how the organization can work. Gone are the days of the traditional MACV Stand Down, an event were 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. MACV president Neal Loidolt said they have had to “get out there, get to the camps, get under the bridges, get to the parking lots at night (to) find veterans where they are.”

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 where we’ve made our greatest improvement,” Loidolt said. “We also reallocated resources to the hotels. 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.”

Loidolt says this new way of operating is not cheap, but necessary.

“We spent $475,000 on hotel stays. 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,” Loidolt said. “And what it does, it provides us with this secondary form of contact. So now that we got you in a hotel, we know where you are everyday.”

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 ever wondering about what is MACV going to do with my $100, my $1,000, you know where it’s going now. You know in this crisis that’s not money thats going to some future program or put in the bank. We are spending it as fast as it comes into the door,” Loidolt said.

For information on how you can help MACV this holiday season, click here.

Reg Chapman