Officials from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) visited Bemidji July 15 to provide an update to city leaders and stakeholders on the status of the future Minnesota Veterans Home.

The home’s location will be on 15 acres donated by Sanford Health next to the grounds of their northern Minnesota campus.

In March, Gov. Tim Walz announced that all three of Minnesota’s proposed new State Veterans Homes projects, to be located in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston, would receive federal funding this year. The three new Minnesota Veterans Homes projects are slated to receive more than $80 million in federal VA funds.

MDVA recently completed the Federal VA grant application process to obtain the funds. The final approval of the funds is expected in late July or early August.

In 2018, the Minnesota Legislature allocated $10.2 million toward the cost of the Bemidji Veterans Home project which will be funded by a combination of federal-granted (65 percent), state-bonded and pending community-provided monies (35 percent).

“We are thrilled to be able to move forward on this long-awaited project,” said MDVA Commissioner Larry Herke. “The new Minnesota Veterans Home in Bemidji will allow us to better serve aging Veterans in northern Minnesota, giving them and their families a new option for long-term care within a couple of hours from home.”

The project’s timeline includes earthwork beginning this August and the new home tentatively opening in June 2023. A groundbreaking event is being planned. The public is invited to attend, and more details will be shared in the coming weeks.

The Bemidji home’s design reflects a Northwoods cabin feel for the public spaces that include a Town Center featuring a small coffee shop/cafe, theater/meeting room, family dining room, meditation room/chapel, and club room. The 72 residential units will all be private with private bathrooms and will be split into smaller “households” of 18 veterans each, avoiding long institutional-feeling hallways.

At the meeting, Wold Architect’s Sara Malin said the future “home in the woods for Veterans” will have many of the comforts of home. For example, the residents will enjoy a serving kitchen and dining area in each household where the smells and sounds of meal preparation will make the space feel like home.

Douglas Hughes, MDVA Deputy Commissioner - Veterans Healthcare, discussed Resident admissions and said that home will be able to accommodate residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease with a Memory Care unit. The number of rooms dedicated to Memory Care will depend on the residents who are admitted.

Hughes stressed that applications for admissions and employment are not yet being accepted. More information will be shared in the months ahead. To be eligible for admission, residents must be a Minnesota-eligible Veteran per Minnesota Statute 197.447, or be a spouse of an eligible Veteran, or be a Gold Star Parent, and meet the clinical need for skilled nursing care. Interested Veterans can work with their local County Veterans Service Officer on the application process. For admissions inquiries, email NewHomesAdmissions@state.mn.us.

Hughes also noted that staffing the new home will be a challenge in the current economy. MDVA will be partnering with the community to explore creative recruitment strategies to hire approximately 140 staff including everyone from the home administrator and healthcare staff to housekeeping, maintenance and food service workers. Hiring for leadership roles will likely begin in summer 2022. For employment inquiries, email NewHomesJobs@state.mn.us.

For more information, visit the MDVA website at MinnesotaVeteran.org/FutureHomes.

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