Homeless veteran transition home going up off Minnehaha


Construction on a new transition house for homeless veterans and their families began June 26 with a groundbreaking ceremony. The plan is the finish the home in time for the fall Parade of Homes, which begins Sept. 9. courtesy of Builders Association of the Twin Cities Foundation

The new house, similar to the one seen here, will have five bedrooms and two bathrooms and will serve one family at a time while they look for permanent housing. Families will be able to stay in the home for up to two years. courtesy of Lennar

Home will help veterans and families get a leg up

 

A new home being built on the corner of Kennard Street and Minnehaha Avenue will serve as a transition home for veterans and their families as they come out of homelessness.

On June 26, ground was broken for the new transition home.

The home will have five bedrooms and two bathrooms, with the first floor being wheelchair accessible. The plan is to have the home finished in time to be included in the fall Parade of Homes, which begins Sept. 9.

The home is being built as part of a partnership between Rebuilding Together, the Builders Association of the Twin Cities Foundation, Lennar, and the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. 

MACV has beds established for single veterans, but no spaces for homeless veterans who have dependent children, said Nathaniel Saltz, the program director at MACV.

On average, Saltz said, MACV is helping about 1,750 veterans stabilize their lives by placing them into transitional housing. He said about 26 percent of those veterans have dependent children. 

The house off Minnehaha will be the first home established specifically for homeless veterans with dependent children. 

 

A need for stability

Kimberley Dotstry, a Navy veteran who now works for MACV, experienced homelessness four years ago with her three teenage kids, and would have benefited from the transition home that’s currently under construction.

In February of 2013, she and her children relocated to Minnesota for more housing and job opportunities. The first couple of weeks they lived in a hotel, quickly burning through Dotstry’s savings. She found a job but didn’t make enough to cover the first and last month’s rent that landlords often required when she applied for apartments. 

Child support also was not enough and the family soon found itself searching for homeless shelters that had enough room for all four of them.

Dotstry had never heard of MACV and as she filled out her weekly updates to the shelter about her housing search, someone mentioned she could get help from the organization.

She reached out and found out she qualified for assistance. MACV helped her with her down payment on an apartment and offered her a full-time job.

“It’s just such an ordeal,” Dotstry said. “When you have three kids looking up at you, asking ‘where are we going to sleep tonight?’ it’s tough.”

Not only was she dealing with trying to find housing, but she was also trying to register three kids for school, despite not having a permanent home. 

“You can’t get to one step until something else gets fixed,” Dotstry said, explaining that problems often stack up on each other quickly, making it hard to make any progress towards stabilization.

“Had that [new] home been available when we were coming through, oh my gosh, it really would have been a wonderful opportunity to help with stabilization,” Dotstry said. 

“I think it’s a phenomenal project,” Dotstry said. “This home is really needed and long overdue and it’ll be able to help a lot of veteran families.”
 

Long time coming

The creation of the home has taken some time.

The lot on which the home will sit was owned by the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority and was included in the city’s Inspiring Communities program.

Inspiring Communities was developed after the Great Recession housing crisis, to help developers cover the cost of renovating vacant or condemned homes. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of vacant homes and lots, which attract crime or drive down neighboring home values.

When the city heard about the veterans transition home project, it decided to donate the land, worth about $20,000.

Originally the plan was to move a duplex from another part of the East Side to the lot, but it didn’t work out. The next option was to build an entirely new home.

In the past, Rebuilding Together, which links volunteers with those in need of home repairs, and MACV had worked together on a number of projects. The Builder’s Association of the Twin Cities Foundation, which also works extensively with Rebuilding Together, helps to connect contractors with volunteer and community service projects. 

Perri Graham-Raff, executive director of the builder’s foundation, said one of the organization’s focuses is homelessness, which it adresses through a program called HomeAid Twin Cities. 

The three organizations were working on finding a contractor to donate time, labor and supplies, when Lennar, a construction contracting company, came along and said it was looking to help on a project benefitting veterans. 

Lennar has now designed the home, which is valued at about $300,000, and will donate its management, time and labor, while tracking down donations of materials.

“It’s a really great story all around for the neighborhood and for veterans,” said Jane Prince, the St. Paul City Council member for Ward 7, where the home is located. 

“It’s meaningful to me that we as community be involved in creating housing for veterans, because they have sacrificed so much.” 

 

Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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