MINNEAPOLIS — In the early morning hours, people staying the night at area homeless shelters move quietly from their place of slumber to warming houses to stay out of the cold.
The Opportunity Center on 17th and Chicago is one of those spots.
"This is a safe place for people who are experiencing homelessness and we see Veterans come through here everyday," said Femi Ogun, a program manager at the Opportunity Center.
They have until 8 p.m. to get things done.
"We have services which we call direct services and that is showers, laundry and we have food," Ogun said.
In the corner of the room, James McCloden, Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) outreach coordinator knows coming here he has a good chance of talking to and helping a veteran.
"The Opportunity Center is really the best place because I have success connecting with veterans right out of the shelters," McCloden said.
On this day a veteran, who he helped put in emergency housing, returned to the Opportunity Center — he is in need of other resources.
He did not want to talk about his situation on camera. James says it takes time to gain their trust.
"You have to sometimes consistently make contact and a connection before they feel confident enough to even first off tell you they have a problem — that's step one," McCloden said. "Step two, 'Hey I have a problem, can you help me with that problem?' Yes, I can. Then you have to deliver and if you don't deliver what you promised, then that vet's confidence is ruined."
Many have tried to access resources and were not successful.
Navy veteran Rashon Christopher was one of those veterans.
"Then when I tried, I was unsuccessful at the time and... So that actually kind of turned me away," Christopher said. "So a lot of vets can feel turned away at a location, but you just have to keep at it and find a place that will really help you and find those go getters that are really about helping the veterans."
MACV was that go getter organization that made it possible for Christopher to move into his own apartment.
"Everybody working, you know, to help me out, and I greatly appreciate it. I bless them all," Christopher said.
The former Navy aviation ordinance worker drove to Minneapolis from Philadelphia for a job.
"So I came up here, packed all the stuff I could in my car, and drove up here and I ended up needing help," Christopher said.
MACV helped put Christopher in temporary housing until last month.
He is now Home for the Holidays.
"Where would you be without MACV?" Reg Chapman asked.
"I would not be here, sitting on this couch right now. You know, I really wouldn't. Between MACV and the VA, I really wouldn't," Christopher said.
You can support veterans like Christopher and their family by donating to our "Home for the Holidays" campaign. You can text MACV to 44321 or click here. By following that link, you'll also find details on gifting an ornament for our holiday tree.
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