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Earlier this spring, representatives from St. Vincent de Paul CARES (SVdP) joined with members of the Inverness Elks Lodge to celebrate formerly homeless local veterans who had moved into their own housing.

“At the March Move in Celebration … we were able to experience the power of what stable housing and support services can do for those that are homeless,” said Mary Burns, spokeswoman for SVdP in St. Petersburg. “Though we are not able to move forward with any face-to-face celebrations just yet, SVdP CARES is celebrating the recent funding we received from the VA — $2 million to disperse to struggling veterans in need during the COVID crisis.”

Eligible veterans living in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Citrus, Lake, Sumter, Hernando, Desoto, Highlands, Hardee, Lee and Collier counties may be eligible for rent and/or utility assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.

Eligibility requirements include:

• Must lack the resources to maintain stable housing.

Military discharge or service must be under "other than dishonorable" conditions.

An income less than 50% of the area median income of the county.

Verification of income or loss of income.

At this time, the program has the ability to pay rent expenses, but not mortgage expenses. However, homeowners may be eligible for utility assistance.

To get started, veterans should call 844-455-SSVF (7783). An initial screening will be completed by phone, and eligible veterans will be contacted by their local SVdP CARES office. Funding is available through July 31.