New response team to offer MN's homeless veterans 'immediate' help

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The annual Point-in-Time count will take place Thursday – a joint effort by outreach workers across the state to identify and count the homeless in Minnesota, sheltered and unsheltered.

This year, for the first time, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is putting together a team and making available a crisis shelter to give immediate assistance to veterans who are found to be struggling, according to a news release.

The Veteran Rapid Response Team will be on standby. Outreach workers who find a homeless veteran will connect them with a social worker who specializes in finding housing solutions.

Those in the seven-county Twin Cities metro will have the option to go to a temporary crisis center to meet with the social worker in person. They'll also get food, a place to sleep, and a "sleep kit" they can keep.

In greater Minnesota, the veterans and social workers will connect over the phone.

The response team will operate through mid-afternoon Friday.

More on veteran homelessness

There is a Homeless Veterans Registry operated by the state – its goal being to connect homeless veterans with places to live. They also ask landlords who want to help to join the registry (more info on that here). Social workers will also try to get veterans signed up for that during the PIT count.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs says there were 317 veterans identified as homeless during 2014's Point-in-Time count.

An update to the state's Heading Home initiative is set to be discussed Thursday at 11 a.m.

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates about 47,725 veterans are homeless each night – about 11 percent of the total estimated homeless population. Of those, 91 percent are men, and 97 percent were by themselves.

HUD says veteran homelessness dropped by 4 percent from 2014 to 2015. It's been declining since 2010.

Meanwhile, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans says 51 percent of all homeless veterans have a disability; half have a "serious mental illness"; and 70 percent have substance abuse problems.

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