Finding Homes for Heroes

Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) serves veterans and their families struggling with homelessness.

For over 25 years, local veterans and their families have been receiving assistance for finding homes across the state of Minnesota from the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV). A nonprofit organization, MACV gives back to those who have given our country so much by providing jobs, assisting with job placement, and offering legal services.

“We accomplish our mission by providing these services directly and in collaboration with community partners. In 2017, over 5,000 veterans received services from MACV,” says MACV operations manager David Nguyen.

The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans has been reaching out to assist gay veterans dealing with homelessness and financial issues. Photo courtesy of David Nguyen

With a mission of ending veteran homelessness in Minnesota, MACV is definitely on the track to achieving this success. By assisting veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, MACV has helped veterans overcome barriers to obtaining and retaining housing, including GLBT veterans.

“With this focus, we have had many success stories ranging from an LGBT veteran who obtained housing through our Keys for Heroes program and employment services while getting other supportive services in partnership with the Aliveness Project,” Nguyen says. “Another LGBT woman veteran is moving into her own apartment after avoiding the shelters due to her fear of discrimination as an out person.”

Though MACV assists all veterans regardless of circumstances, Nguyen said he’s uncertain of the number of GLBT veterans they have assisted as many do not feel comfortable disclosing this information to people.

“Although the military culture has more recently embraced its LGBT members, for some older vets there is still a lingering memory of discrimination, and it informs their decision when deciding who to come out to. Also, many veteran-specific transitional housing opportunities are for men or women and not all of our LGBTQ veterans in need of temporary housing feel entirely comfortable in a communal living scenario in either category, even though they will be eligible,” he says.

MACV has been providing job placement and legal services to veterans for over 25 years. Image courtesy of MACV

Stories from GLBT veterans have historically pointed to what is referred to as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era of the United States military, which is when many veterans enlisted.

“It has been explained by one LQBTQ veteran we will call ‘D’: ‘When you need a place to live, anywhere is better than nowhere, but if I had a choice I would move into LGBTQ veteran housing.’ D also explained that she would choose LQBTQ VA support groups around recovery if it was offered. D enlisted during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era,” Nguyen says. “She remembers being physically punished by the sergeant after cutting her hair shorter than regulation allowed for women. ‘Even though the rules have changed I still feel like some people, like my sergeant, are still in the military. I have learned not to let it bother me but I also don’t want to be denied benefits or something because of it. Sometimes I still feel like that could still happen.'”

The military’s past unwillingness to accept GLBT community members has lingering effects today for many veterans looking for housing. Like D, many veterans are turned away from opportunities because people continue with the same mindset as in the past. Others feel hesitant to even apply for housing that’s specifically for veterans because they might not feel comfortable identifying themselves as GLBT while also living among other veterans. With the help of MACV, more veterans are being placed in housing, employment, and necessary legal services to hopefully stop this pattern for GLBT veterans.

“Recently, we attended the Aliveness Project planning sessions. They are considering the start of their own homeless registry much like the one used for veterans. MDVA (Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs) was there, so were we, and we discussed how to better partner to identify our LGBTQ vets and make sure they receive all the services they need. This year MACV will have a booth at Pride. Maybe next year we will be in the parade,” Nguyen says.

As MACV continues to help thousands of veterans across the state of Minnesota, the organization is getting more and more involved in the GLBT community, which will hopefully spark a greater number of GLBT veterans to seek out assistance from MACV.

With the help of MACV, Minnesota veterans are escaping homelessness, unemployment, and legal issues that unfortunately continue to plague the heroic community to this day. With MACV’s mission in mind, we will continue to strive for a day when veterans no longer face these types of problems.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about MACV and the services they provide, visit their website at www.mac-v.org or call at 833-222-6228.

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