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YM County ponders vets program: What they need most

GRANITE FALLS — Veterans struggling with a return to civilian life could get the housing and training they need for a new career on the campus of a Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

That is a proposal the Veteran’s Service officer for Yellow Medicine County is pursuing for the Granite Falls campus of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

Combining transitional housing with a jobs-focused training program could provide some veterans the type of support they most need, Veterans Service Officer Michelle Gatz told the Yellow Medicine County board of commissioners on Tuesday. Veterans of earlier wars often had a home and close-knit community waiting to help them when they returned.

“It’s just not the same” for some veterans today, she told the commissioners. She believes there is a population of veterans in the region who are struggling with housing and jobs needs, and are not sure where to turn.

The issue could grow in the years ahead as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and pursues plans to reduce overall troop numbers.

She would like to see the Minnesota West Community and Technical College campus become the first in the state to host on-campus housing specifically for veterans enrolled in its programs.

By providing housing, it would also be able to connect the veterans with other services they may need. The veterans would have access to the Veteran’s Administration Clinic in Montevideo for some services, she noted.

Gatz said the proposal is only in the early stages of seeking funding to determine its feasibility. It calls for constructing an 11-apartment building on the Granite Falls campus for veterans. They would enroll in any of the school’s programs for a one-year period.

The proposal emerged during discussions with a recently formed “Friends of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Granite Falls” group. The citizens group organized in response to a bonding request by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System to raze the 300 building on the campus.

The proposal was subsequently dropped, but the local group is continuing to market the campus and increase its offerings.

The commissioners did not take any action on the proposal, but informally indicated the county could serve as fiscal agent for any grant funds obtained towards it.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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