MAC-V: Serving homeless women veterans and their families

written by naehblog
March 17, 2010

“Female Gulf War veteran with one minor child; had utility shutoff; landlord had served eviction notice; MACV assisted and she is stable today.”

“Veteran spouse and 5 children were living in a dilapidated old trailer with walls caving in; assisted them into new housing.”

“32 year old single, Iraqi female veteran with 2 children; unexpected medical costs of illness of her daughter; was facing utility shutoff; is now stable.”

These are dispatches from the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), a nonprofit organization assisting women veterans and their families. Kathleen Vitalis, the energetic leading force of MACV, who has been at the helm of the organization for nine years, offered these glimpses into her work.

The plight of women veterans facing homelessness isn’t a new concept here at the Alliance. Not long ago, VP of Policy & Programs Steve Berg offered CNN some thoughts about the depth and gravity of the situation. And as the challenges facing female veterans continues to make play in the headlines and the Veterans Administration works toward ending homelessness among veterans in five years, we look to Kathleen and MACV to get a sense of the realty of the situation. The work of MACV prevented the three women described above from joining the 6,500 female veterans who are currently experiencing homelessness in the U.S.

Two elements seem to set MACV – and their success – apart from more traditional homelessness assistance programs:

  • At MACV, programs serve not just individuals, but their families – the focus on families allows them to better serve female veterans, who are more likely to be responsible for children.
  • MACV aims to provide a wide breadth of coordinated services. From housing to nutrition to health care to job training to legal services – MACV manages to connect their clients to the wide array of resources necessary to move towards stability and independence.
  • Paramount to MACV’s service delivery are outreach and education. Through the creation of a Crisis Intervention Team, MACV has extended it’s outreach to every county in the state and connecting with more veterans needing services.

Their efforts have seen considerable success.

In 2008, MACV provided 887 veterans in Minnesota with direct services – an increase of 58 percent as compared to 2007. To date, MACV has served more than 4,900 veterans and their families in crisis over the course of 17 years. In 2009, the organization won the U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Service to Homeless Veterans.

For Kathleen, assisting veterans is a deeply profound and personal mission.

”…taking a break from my for-profit career to have my son…made me realize that I wanted to have more meaning in my work. So when I was ready to get back into the workforce, I kept looking for that elusive meaning.

My mother-in-law’s first husband was killed in Vietnam and she volunteered for MACV. My father fought in Korea; my husband [is] a Vietnam veteran. It was staring me in the face!

So I started as a volunteer [at MACV] and eight years later, I am still finding that meaning and that passion every day I go to work. What an honor to serve this country’s veterans. What an honor to offer hope and a hand up to those in need.

For more information about MACV, please visit their website.