The Homeless Veterans

by Veteran Knowsley

The Ministry of Defence says all service leavers are offered resettlement and careers advice. And some free retraining. The ministry said the veterans "are the best of British. They have the skills and the attitude to succeed in any civilian job."

It's an inexcusable betrayal of Britain’s brave servicemen and women. As most of the country sits warm and dry in their cosy homes this morning, 5,000 veterans face another day out in the cold. Social exclusion takes many forms, the most visible of which is homelessness, particularly rough sleeping. But not all sections of society run the same risk of exclusion or homelessness. The individual pathways to homelessness are many but there are several recurring 'institutional' features. Nearly half of homeless people under 25 have been in local authority care, many have spent time in prison, and up to three in ten have served in the Armed Forces.

In recent years the high number of veterans among homeless people has been increasingly recognised. The number of homeless ex-forces veterans in London has dropped dramatically, but the group remains vulnerable and hard to reach, according to new research. The percentage of former service personnel in London's homeless population has dropped from 22% in 1997 to 6% in 2007, according to a study by York University. The number of homeless veterans remained significant, however, with an estimated 1,100 non-statutory homeless ex-service personnel living in London on any given night. UK research suggests that veterans are more likely to have slept rough than other homeless people.  Nearly one third said that they had slept rough, although many others had ‘camped out’.  Some veterans considered themselves better equipped to sleep out than other homeless people, as a result of their training.  This is likely to be one of the factors contributing to the over representation of veterans among the chronically homeless population.Under Section 189 of the Housing Act 1996, homeless persons have a priority need for re-housing if they are vulnerable as a result of "having been a member of Her Majesty’s regular naval, military or air forces", and their local council will help them find permanent accommodation.

Initiatives to help veterans - such as giving them quick access to emergency accommodation - are having a positive impact, according to the report, The Experiences of Ex-Service Personnel in London. Yet veterans are rarely accepted as statutorily homeless and, as single men, have difficulty accessing social housing. Even veterans left traumatised by conflict and with children to support are refused help by over-stretched councils and housing associations. Veterans in Scotland are 10% more likely to become homeless than anywhere else in the UK..

Across Britain, another 1,500 are reckoned to be homeless, a group so forgotten that no-one has even bothered trying to count them, let alone offer them the assistance they have earned. Worse still, military charities expect the numbers to rocket as troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, many maimed, return to Civvy Street only to find the economic slump means they can’t get a job. Those veterans living on the streets of Britain today come from all backgrounds, all strata of education and society, all ethnic backgrounds. The only common denominators are that they are all unfortunate, unloved and homeless. Most homeless veterans are single men – meaning they languish at the bottom of housing waiting lists, despite laws that say they should get priority. Some veterans find it difficult to settle down following discharge from the military, often having become accustomed to a transient and adventurous lifestyle.

What most people fail to realize is that homelessness is a gradual downward spiral. You don't suddenly find yourself a rough sleeper.  Most men and women, on discharge, from their military service, think they can get a job, a home, earn a living, just like everybody else.  It's not always that easy especially if you have a medical condition. Or a veteran might find him or herself homeless after years of a successful civilian life.  Failure of a business or a marriage and divorce might leave you with little or nothing. However those veterans who were homeless were more likely to have alcohol misuse allied to other mental health problems, and physical health problems, than other homeless people. Only a small minority reported vulnerability unique to people with a military background (eg combat-related PTSD). About a quarter carried vulnerabilities from childhood or adolescence into the armed forces and then later on into civilian life; a quarter found their problems emerged during their time of service; but one-third indicated their problems came after they left the services, and often much later in life, caused by events such as relationship breakdowns, bereavement and financial crisis.

In a nut-shell after leaving the military you are left to fend for yourself... Once you have finished your contract the Army simply washes its hands of your welfare. Once you have handed over your ID and your kit, they are finished with you - unless all-out war breaks out and you are under 55 when you will be called up again. Military marriages have the highest divorce rate of any other stratum of society. A survey last year by Homeless Link suggested that whilst homelessness among veterans is not high, it is widespread; approximately half the day centres in England reported that they support veterans. Ex-service personnel face a high risk of rough sleeping, though for relatively short periods - fewer were recorded using “second stage” accommodation. It is encouraging that homelessness amongst veterans is quickly resolved. The Royal British Legion (RBL) provides welfare services to serving and former personnel and their dependents, campaigns on a range of issues affecting service people and is custodian of Remembrance Day.

The UK is not alone in this matter America, Canada and Australia to have a homeless problem with veterans. So you can see we are not alone. In the last few years work has started on getting those off the street and to find them a better life. You will always find that some don’t want any help. To put something in place to help those who want it. To hear that one third on the streets of the UK are ex services personnel does not make good reading for any one.

Comments

This is so sad, I never knew this was happening
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I wrote this as we we draw near to Remembrance Sunday. I was told by my late father that yes we remember the day but we must never forget those who came home but left their youth on the battlefield. it seems to be brush under the carpet . Some say that it is their own fault . It is hard to readjust after being in the services. I did was in for 23 years . I join at 17. I suffer from PTSD I have been close to taking my life. I was drinking heavy. My wife left me. Some guys feel that the world does not care. The hit the bottle or take drugs to hide the pain of what they have seen . So please on Remembrance Sunday give a few moments to think about those who came home . Keith Veteran Knowsley
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As an ex soldier I know my background means nothing when applying for housing. Even-though I was medically discharged after a traumatic brain injury, 10 years service, since the age of 16, and a pension "non- attributable invalidity" doesn't even cover the cost of a tooth extraction, and is less than unemployment benefit, so I don't sign on and this has hindered me all these years. Never knew I would be coming out to this! Walking about with toothache! Hungry! Homeless! Never ending! Embarrassing!
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