Identical bills would aid homeless vets


As homeless Navy veteran William Namen sat on a rock contemplating suicide a decade ago, a counselor from the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans came out of the woods and asked him if he could help put his life back on track.

At that time, Namen was sleeping in a park and working three jobs. Now gainfully employed, Namen is a homeowner and taxpayer in Dakota County who testified on behalf of a pair of identical bills to appropriate $250,000 each of the next two years to the council. The funds would be used to continue outreach efforts to homeless veterans or those at risk of becoming homeless.

Sponsored by Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) and Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Lake Elmo), respectively, HF466 and HF866 were approved by the House Veterans Services Division and referred to the House State Government Finance Committee.

A companion to Morrow’s bill, SF609, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato), awaits action by the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee. Lohmer’s bill has no Senate companion.

The council has regional offices in Minneapolis, Duluth and Mankato and manages eight transitional homes for veterans as they access services such as medical care, chemical dependency treatment and job skills training. The agency works with other social and veterans services organizations so as not to duplicate services. Without the council, Namen said he wouldn’t be here today.