Honoring veterans

Carol Barkalow graduated from West Point in 1980, a member of the first class of women to attend the military academy. In 1990, she worked in the Pentagon as a special assistant to Chief of Staff Colin Powell. She wrote a book, “In the Men’s House” about her experiences as one of the first female cadets at the United States Military Academy. After 27 years of service to her country, she retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Although retired, Col. Barkalow continues her life’s work of service by helping veterans. In March 2013, she, Sheila Mutascio (a real estate entrepreneur) and Laura Berkowitz (a communications specialist with a background in nonprofits) combined their talents and experience to found Heaven on Earth for Veterans, Inc. (HOEV), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing housing assistance services.

HOEV purchases and fully furnishes houses in Pinellas County to offer living spaces for veterans who cannot afford to own or rent on their own. Veterans lease private bedrooms and share the common living areas. The cost of renting a bedroom ranges from $400 to $600 per month. All utilities are included as well as cable and internet access in the common area. Additionally, common areas within the homes are cleaned by a cleaning service biweekly.

An additional long term goal of HOEV is to provide free, temporary housing to veterans to bridge the time gap between requesting financial support and actually receiving that support. Once individuals are verified as veterans, they and their families will not be homeless; they will be given a free, safe, transitional place to stay.

Recently, upon learning that Neighborhood Home Solutions (NHS) has a mission of strengthening communities through affordable housing and assists veterans, among others, Col. Barkalow visited NHS to learn more about its programs and services. NHS has served the community for thirty four years and has offered financial education classes for the past twenty years. NHS and HOEV share a mission of providing housing assistance services. Heaven on Earth for Veterans is doing important work for those to whom we all owe a tremendous debt, and we are honored that Col. Barkalow shared information about NHS services with veterans.

Veterans Day is an official United States holiday that honors people who have served in the U. S. Armed Forces. It is a federal holiday that was observed this past November 11. By establishing Heaven on Earth for Veterans, Inc., its founders have provided an exemplary example of how to honor veterans every day of the year.

NHS is a 501 (c) (3) HUD approved nonprofit housing counseling organization. Services are provided free of charge. Partners include the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HomeFree USA, Florida Hardest-Hit Fund, Pinellas County Community Development, and the City of St. Petersburg.

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