Board will apply for veterans grant
St. Louis County is promising not to forget any veteran. All seven members of the County Board on Tuesday approved applying for a $180,759 Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs grant that would help improve services to veterans within the county.
St. Louis County is promising not to forget any veteran.
All seven members of the County Board on Tuesday approved applying for a $180,759 Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs grant that would help improve services to veterans within the county.
If received, the grant would result in the hiring of two entry-level outreach veterans service officers in the Duluth and Virginia offices for two years, help pay for operations of the Iron Range Veterans Rider transportation program and fund an advertising campaign to say the county "will not tolerate any veteran being forgotten."
The program's goal is to help veterans reintegrate into society, reduce veterans' homelessness, collaborate with other agencies and communities to provide improved veterans' services, and make sure that veterans and their families receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.
The action comes in the wake of an internal county investigation earlier this year that found veterans' services could be improved, said Gary Eckenberg, deputy county administrator.
"It's a great project," said Commissioner Steve O'Neil. "The Veterans Administration says that one-fourth of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be homeless in a year. I think that there is certainly some good cooperation between veterans groups and homeless groups, but this would help even more."
St. Louis County has more than 24,000 veterans, county officials said. Estimates are that about 240 are homeless.
While many homeless veterans live in cities, some reside in rural areas of the county. Having two outreach officers would mean more veterans could be reached, Eckenberg said.
The grant also would help pay transportation costs in an Iron Range Veterans Rider van from northern cities in the county to the VA Medical Center in St. Paul.
Three billboards, one between Hibbing and Virginia, one between Duluth and Virginia and one in Duluth, would be funded to provide veterans with contact information for services. The grant also would pay for pens, magnet calendars and flag magnets providing information to veterans and dependents on meetings and gatherings.
"Those Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have some crucial needs and this would help them," Commissioner Keith Nelson said.
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is scheduled Nov. 16 to decide whether to approve the grant.
The county operates Veteran Services Offices in Duluth, Ely, Hibbing and Virginia.
LEE BLOOMQUIST can be reached weekdays at (800) 368-2506.