MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Military veterans and their families struggling with homelessness now have new homes and resources to help end the cycle of homelessness, with the completion of a 58-unit affordable-housing community at Fort Snelling.
During a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and open house, newly moved-in residents, veterans groups, project partners and community leaders heralded Upper Post Veterans Community as vital in helping reach the goal of ending homelessness among military veterans in Minnesota.
Austin Poons, a veteran who served in the United States Army in the 1970s, was one of the first residents to move into Upper Post Veterans Community. Through the years, Poons has suffered from post-traumatic stress and major depressive disorder and in recent years has struggled with homelessness. Along with his nine-year-old golden retriever, Dutchess, Poon’s new home and life is making a difference. He and Dutchess keep a busy schedule helping others and volunteering at the Veterans Hospital.
“For the first time in two years, probably more, I feel at peace,” said Poon. “I am in a better place mentally and I love this place. Everything is so convenient – the Veterans Administration is a couple of blocks away and I have a park nearby. I feel like I am home for a long time.”
Congressman Erik Paulsen, a longtime supporter of the project, joined Poons and other newly moved-in residents for a tour of their new homes.
“Minnesota’s veterans and heroes have sacrificed for our nation, and we have a responsibility to ensure that they have the support and resources needed when they come home,” he said. “A large part of that support includes safe, affordable housing, and the new units at Fort Snelling will mean a better life for a number of veterans.”
CommonBond Communities, which has served the region for more than 40 years and is the Midwest’s largest nonprofit provider of affordable housing with supportive services, responded to the challenge of bringing an end to veteran homelessness with the transformation of five historic structures into the new veterans community.
Upper Post Veterans Community features 58 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments equipped with central air conditioning, vaulted ceilings and walk-in closets, among other amenities. Common areas for residents include a computer lab, courtyard, elevators, laundry facility, lounge, media center and community room.
CommonBond, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other partners, has created the Advantage Center, which will provide onsite social and support counseling and monitoring, academic and job training, and other services for residents.
“This is a proud moment for so many of us as this new community truly serves as a model for helping address the growing need for permanent housing and services for military veterans,” said Deidre Schmidt, president and CEO of CommonBond Communities. “Of course, we wouldn’t be here today without the support of so many partners who helped transform these five buildings into a vibrant community that will serve our veterans and their families for years to come.”
A collaboration of many public- and private-sector partners helped secure the $17.2 million to build Upper Post Veterans Community.
Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group was the largest investor, providing $9.3 million in equity through a partnership with the Minnesota Equity Fund (MEF), using Low Income Housing and Historic Preservation Tax Credits approved by the state. Minnesota Housing allocated $5.5 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds.
“Today marks an important milestone in helping end homelessness among Minnesota’s veterans and their families,” said Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal, who co-chairs the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness, the coalition of 11 state agencies that are working to prevent and end homelessness. “This new community gives hope that we can and will end veteran and chronic homelessness in our state.”
“We are grateful to be a part of this project that will have a tremendous impact in helping to end homelessness among our veterans,” said Tom Wiffler, chief operating officer, UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans, which provides health care services for nearly 2.9 million service members, military retirees and their families. “Upper Post Veterans Community will provide housing and support services so veterans can live healthier lives, and help those with the greatest need break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.”
“The completion of this new veterans community helps meet the critical need to provide military families with quality, permanent housing with supportive services,” said Warren Hanson, president and CEO of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF). “The Minnesota Equity Fund will continue its work to invest in well-designed, high-quality affordable-housing developments that provide new hope and opportunities for our veterans and their families.”
Additional funding partners include the Family Housing Fund, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Home Depot Foundation, Metropolitan Council, NeighborWorks America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Major League Baseball, the Pohlad Family Foundation, Twins Community Fund and the Minnesota Twins provided $700,000 to fund the Advantage Center.
“We are proud to step up to the plate and support this important community that will serve Minnesota veterans and their families for years to come,” said Dave St. Peter, Minnesota Twins president. “Through the onsite Advantage Center, residents are connected with programs and services that are the lifeline working-age adults need to stabilize their lives, youth need to be academically successful, and individuals with disabilities need to live independently.”
More than 50 veterans and their families have moved into Upper Post Veterans Community as of the end of September. Full occupancy is expected by mid-October.