By Tommy Johnson
I attended an appeal at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority Tuesday, Dec. 3, on behalf of the child of a combat veteran and his fiancé.
The first signs that the hearing was not going to go well were when the hearing officer instructed us to turn off our cellphones and further instructed that the proceedings were to be conducted in secret and we had to promise not to discuss what happened at the hearing. So I won’t discuss what transpired at this secret tribunal. What I will tell you is that I am outraged.
“Joe” is a decorated soldier that served two tours in Iraq. He was a cavalry scout, serving at the front lines. His awards for this service to his country include the Army Commendation Medal, which Joe earned by consistent meritorious service.
Upon discharge, Joe struggled with reintegration to civilian life. He made a mistake — a serious mistake that landed him in the criminal justice system as a defendant. He also owned this mistake, which is why he is now incarcerated at the Duluth Federal Prison Camp, the lowest level of prisons, for a much shorter sentence than could have been imposed had Joe not owned his mistake.
When Joe enlisted, he volunteered to serve this great country up to and including the ultimate sacrifice, his life. He served well and that is why we are proud to call him one of our own — veteran. For making a mistake, beyond the punishment of incarceration, his punishment now includes punishment of his fiancé and child — they became homeless because a unit of government — the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority — chose to put his son and fiancé on the street.
Not because MPHA had to, but because MPHA wanted to.
The message the veteran community is hearing is loud and clear: There are now 78 communities in over 30 states that have ended veteran homelessness. Minneapolis and St. Paul are not on that list. The recent action by MPHA is but one reason why.
At the end of the hearing, I went to the regularly scheduled Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force and informed the body of MPHA’s decision to make a family of a veteran homeless. The decision of the CTF is to send a letter signed by all nine of the congressionally chartered veteran service organizations objecting strongly to MPHA’s decision to make a child and fiancé of a combat veteran homeless.
Action by the CTF to ensure this never happens again to a veteran’s family is good and necessary; if you want to take action, please contact me.
Tommy Johnson is a member of the Earl C. Hill American Legion Post 550 in Bloomington; DAV Chapter 1 in Minneapolis, and serves as the VFW Department Legislative Office out of Geo. R. Wolff VFW Post 425 in Hopkins. His email address is TwoPuttTommy@gmail.com or via cell, 612-424-0482 (please leave a message).