October 04, 2018 07:21 PM
A new home is now open in Maplewood to help women veterans get back on their feet.
It’s the culmination of five months of hard work by the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation and Lennar and their building partners.
The home sets the foundation to help a group of five women veterans take the first step towards housing stability.
Navy veteran Kimberley Dotstry sees opportunity in every one of the five rooms. She was once homeless with her three children and knows the challenges women face trying to find stable housing.
“Is it low income, that you need employment? Is it criminal history?” she said. “There's different things, are you fleeing from domestic violence?”
She will work directly with the women who live at the home as a case manager for MACV. Dotstry will connect them to services to deal with issues including PTSD, addiction or the aftermath of military sexual trauma.
“It’s like a domino effect because you can't hold down a job if you've got these issues, if they're hindering you, if you don't know how to deal with it,” she said.
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According to MACV, there are 20 women veterans homeless in Minnesota. Chief Operating Officer Jon Lovald said the number has fluctuated throughout the year, from as many as 28 to as few as 13.
Overall, he said, “the need is growing.”
The number of homeless women veterans only reflects those who register with the state. Lovald said the increase is good news.
“The numbers are growing because people are hearing there are options out there,” said Lovald. ”People won't reach out their hand for help if they don't think you're actually going to be able to help them.”
Dotstry has already seen the ripple effect.
"I got off the phone with a woman this morning and was so glad that I was able to connect with her because she's homeless in her car and I'm like I can help you," she said.
Close to 300,000 people were involved in building the Maplewood home. Most of the work and materials were donated, including the furniture.
They expect each veteran to stay at the home for about nine months to a year.
“The number comes up real fast for how many different lives they're going to touch and how many different people around those veterans alone that will see their lives improve,” Lovald said.
They hope this is just the start to ending homelessness for women veterans. During the ribbon cutting, BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation said they are already looking for where to build another house.
Wilder Research conducts a survey on homelessness in Minnesota every three years. The last study, from 2015, found the overall number of homeless veterans in Minnesota is decreasing.
The Wilder study estimated there were approximately 422 homeless veterans statewide. That number was down from 580 in 2012, a decrease of nearly 30 percent.
Wilder will be conducting its 2018 study later this month. Its findings are expected to be released later this year,
Updated: October 04, 2018 07:21 PM
Created: October 04, 2018 06:45 PM
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