Veterans Build Initiative Kicks Off
Veterans returning home face myriad challenges, from reintegrating into their communities to joining the workforce. A February 2012, Star Tribune article reports “More than one in five modern-day veterans cannot find work. At almost 23 percent, Minnesota's unemployment rate for veterans who have served after the Sept. 11 attacks is the country’ s third-highest.”
The lack of affordable housing throughout Minnesota communities greatly exacerbates the hardships many Minnesota veterans experience. Habitat for Humanity is determined to create affordable housing opportunities for all in need, and because of the particular hardships veterans face, we are focusing a special outreach effort on returning veterans. We’re looking to help veterans in need of home repairs and foreclosure counseling, as well as partnering with veterans interested in becoming Habitat homebuyers.
On Monday, the 10th, we kicked off our efforts with a “Welcome Home” ceremony at a Minneapolis American Legion. The event featured Senator Al Franken, Susan Haigh, CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, and Sgt. Brian Neill, who is the first veteran to benefit from this initiative.
Sgt. Neil served in the National Guard for 23 years. In his most recent tours in Iraq, he suffered extensive injuries. His son, and ROTC member, was also recently injured severely when he was hit by a drunk driver. Sgt. Neill’s wife Jane now cares primarily for the family.
After the kick off, veterans and other volunteers repaired Sgt. Brian Neill’s home, blocks away from the Legion. Neill and his family have lived in the home for 20 years, and its foundation and roof are in need of repair. Habitat crews are working on those, as well as pouring a new sidewalk and painting the siding.
Habitat for Humanity is interested not only in helping veterans find a home or repair their existing home, but on a larger scale we want to engage them in their communities through volunteering. According to Civic Enterprise’s study “All Volunteer Force: From Military to Civilian Service,” civic engagement and volunteerism are very effective means to achieve successful social and community reintegration, and yet only 21 percent of returning veterans have been asked to serve in their home communities. As an organization that connects volunteers and provides housing solutions, we feel that we are uniquely equipped to aid veterans against the many challenges they face.