Five Minnesota counties reach "functional zero" status for veteran homelessness

Updated: November 11, 2020 06:21 PM

As the United States thank those who've served on Veterans Day, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) said we must also put action behind that gratitude by ending veteran homelessness. 

At the World War II memorial in St. Paul, Walz and state partners said five metro-area counties have achieved "functional zero" in terms of veteran homelessness. 

Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington counties have received the federal designation, which means they have systems in place to ensure that veterans in those areas are rarely without a place to stay. 

"We will continue working with our veterans one veteran at a time to ensure all veterans have a place that they can call home," Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke said. 

Gov. Walz served in the Minnesota National Guard for 24 years. There are currently about 325,000 veterans living in Minnesota. 

"All too often, that service leaves scars, some visible, some not. And what can end up happening is we end up with veterans as they come back to life in the civilian world, those challenges become almost insurmountable," Walz said. "And that's where it's our responsibility, and it's our privilege to be able to help and serve those veterans." 

The Minnesota Homeless Veteran Registry helps. According to the online database, 308 veterans are homeless in Minnesota on Nov. 11, 2020. 

Deborah Spencer, who served as an Army Specialist, has been there. 

"I broke my leg about a year and a half ago, went through my savings, went back to work, COVID hit, and I'm homeless," Spencer said. "That's not really something you see yourself being at 52 years old."

MACV, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, was able to find her housing in Carver County. 

Walz said ending veteran homelessness is not an aspiration, but a tangible goal for the state. 

"This is not about placing someone for an evening. And this is not about us not believing that more veterans will come into the system and potentially fall upon this. But it's creating a deep and broad safety net that is there to lift them up," he said. 

You can find more information or register as a homeless veteran here

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