Advancing National Service

Minnesota Looks to a Historic Structure to Help End Veteran Homelessness

June 9, 2014
Minnesota Looks to a Historic Structure to Help End Veteran Homelessness
A rendering for a housing for homeless veterans sits inside Fort Snelling in Minnesota. The fort is being converted to create a homes for the veterans. Screengrab via CBS Minnesota
Fort Snelling (aka the building with countless lives) will house struggling soldiers.

First, the building served as a fort. Its second life? A Civil War induction station. Next, it was the Military Intelligence Service Language School during World War II, where soldiers learned Japanese. For its fourth incarnation, the fort was decommissioned and turned over to the Minnesota Historical Society and became a military museum. Now, the historic structure is being called to service once again — this time as housing for homeless veterans.

Fort Snelling, which sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, was built in the 1820s. To ready the structure for its new purpose, construction workers broke ground on May 29 to begin converting five of its historic buildings into 58 affordable housing units for homeless military veterans and their families — the CommonBond Veteran’s Housing.

Studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom units are available. The complex will include medical and psychological health offices, job training services, and academic support. Residents will work with counselors to help get their lives back on track.

Collaboration between public and private groups, including United Health Group, the Home Depot Foundation, Neighborhood Works America, and many others raised the $17.2 million required for the project, which should be completed by spring 2015.

“I’m very proud of the progress that we have made. After years of hard work, Minnesota now has the lowest homeless rate for veterans in the country,” Senator Al Franken told Reg Chapman of CBS Minnesota. Minnesota has 320 homeless veterans, and state leaders have set a goal to end homelessness among veterans in the state by 2015.

Formerly homeless Marine Corps Vietnam veteran Jerry Readmond, who now serves as an advocate for homeless veterans, told Chapman, “We’re all trained in the military how to survive but when we come home we have to start surviving all over again.”

This new use of the old fort should make that quest for survival easier.

MORE: The City of Miami Steps Up for Its Homeless Service Members