By Kelly Smith Star Tribune
The program, started by Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities, provides supportive permanent housing for veterans.
Brett Gipson moved Friday into the first place of his own in months, excited to have a private apartment with a window that framed the sunny greenery just outside.
The 45-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who was hospitalized for months after a domestic shooting that left him paralyzed, looked around the 300-square-foot apartment near downtown St. Paul, the only place he could find to go after leaving the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis.
"It was the only option I had," the Illinois native said. "I'm excited now that I'm here."
Gipson is the first resident in a newly expanded affordable housing program for homeless veterans launched by Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities and the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), the only program of its kind in Ramsey County.
After piloting the program for two years, the two nonprofits made the housing program permanent this week, expanding it from nine to 15 apartments and adding transitional housing with more services.
"We've been able to connect [veterans] to much-needed services," said Dave Sena, an Air Force veteran who oversees the program at Union Gospel. "Veterans who have given so much for our country ... have a specific space for them with people that are really focused on their needs."
In the last two years, the program has helped 19 men and is exploring adding a program for female veterans who are homeless.
"It's a public health problem," she said. "It's really hard to keep your stability and your mental health and everything in check when you're not able to have housing. The more housing we have available for veterans ... the easier it is for those individuals to become stable."
The veterans in the housing program pay about $300 a month to lease one of the dormlike apartments, which come with shared bathrooms and access to mental health counseling and other resources. The subsidized leases help them compile a rental history to apply for other apartments, and takes them off the state homeless registry.
On average, veterans stay about five months in the program, Sena said. It costs Union Gospel Mission about $90,000 a year to operate the program, excluding building and food costs.
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