New analysis of government data points to the potential for up to 3,500 homeless veterans each year losing out on the housing and enhanced support available to them.
That’s a stat a campaign launched today (24th Sept) can rally round.
The No Homeless Veterans campaign – backed by former army sergeant Dame Kelly Holmes – calls on councils to identify and support veterans in housing need and aims to reduce veterans’ homelessness to zero.
A survey commissioned to coincide with the launch shows 80% of the British public think more needs to be done to identify and support veterans at risk of homelessness.
“That is why I am supporting the campaign to help our country’s veterans when they need it most,” said Dame Kelly.
“Stable housing is key to helping adjust to all aspects of civilian life – work, family, health, and wellbeing.
“I want to encourage others, and especially those on the frontline dealing with homelessness, to ‘Think Veteran’ and get ex-Service personnel in need of help to the support available to them,” she said.
Latest MHCLG data demonstrates that over the last year just 1,780 homeless veterans were identified by council housing services, out of 246,290 cases of homelessness recorded in the period – just 0.72% of accepted cases.
Studies suggest that up to 3% of people sleeping rough in England are ex-service personnel.
The figures only account for those the authorities deem homeless, and the true number of homeless people, including veterans, is likely to be much higher.
Experts from the campaign warn that – based on the government’s numbers – over 3,500 homeless veterans could be slipping through the net each year.
The campaign aims to reduce veterans’ homelessness as close to zero as possible, calling on councils, homelessness charities, and advice agencies such as Citizens Advice to ‘Think Veteran’ in order to identify former Servicemen and women and signpost them to the enhanced support services available to them.
The campaign is coordinated by Stoll, the leading provider of supported housing to vulnerable and disabled veterans and led by the Cobseo (Confederation of Service Charities) Housing Cluster, which co-ordinates the response of charities to homeless veterans.
It is funded by the Forces in Mind Trust.
“Most veterans make a smooth transition from military to civilian life, but it is too easy for ex-service personnel, especially younger veterans and early Service leavers, to end up homeless,” said Ed Tytherleigh, co-chair at the Cobseo Housing Cluster.
“We believe we can reduce the incidence of homelessness among veterans as close to zero as possible.
“But this will only happen if we ensure we are effectively identifying veterans and providing a clear housing pathway.
“Together, we can end this shameful but avoidable situation,” he said.
A survey released today to coincide with the campaign launch shows overwhelming public support for veterans, with 80% of respondents agreeing more needs to be done to identify and support veterans at risk of homelessness.
The vast majority (95%) believed stable housing is important in helping veterans adjust to civilian life.
“We believe we can reduce the incidence of homelessness among veterans as close to zero as possible, but this will only happen if we ensure we are effectively identifying veterans and providing a clear housing pathway,” said NHF chief executive Kate Henderson.
“We are calling on local authorities and advice agencies to support the No Homeless Veterans campaign, to identify veterans in housing need and channel them through to appropriate support as quickly as possible.
“Together, we can end this shameful but avoidable situation,” she said.
LGA housing spokesman Cllr David Renard said councils are often the first port of call for veterans who have left active service and their families and are committed to trying to provide them with the support they need and deserve.
But councils needed some commitment in return.
“With more than one million people on housing waiting lists, the Government needs to use the Queen’s Speech to give councils the powers and funding they need to get building the social housing the country desperately needs, accompanied with the right infrastructure,” he said.
Brought to Attention – Mac McLaren
Mac (42) was an infantry Soldier in the British Army for seven years (1998-2005), including three tours in Northern Ireland, two tours in Bosnia, and one in Iraq.
When injuries forced Mac to leave service life behind, he was distraught.
Without the structure and discipline of the Army, Mac became homeless and spent a year staying on friends’ sofas or sleeping in his car.
He approached his local authority, Glasgow city council, for social housing but was told he didn’t have enough housing points and was put at the bottom of the list.
Then in 2014 Mac’s marriage broke down and he again found himself homeless.
He again approached the council for housing help but again missed out on being housed because he was told he was not a priority case.
This was before the Armed Forces Covenant was put in place to protect veterans.
It wasn’t until Mac contacted Stoll that his needs were finally addressed.
Mac said: “Within no time I had somewhere to call home and the safety net I needed to help me get my life back on track.”
“The No Homeless Veterans campaign helps councils honour the pledge made in the Armed Forces Covenant and means veterans will no longer find themselves in the position I was in.
“Before I found Stoll it felt like everyone had turned their back on me – I was in a very low place and felt like I had run out of options.
“I just wanted the same as anyone else – a place I could call home,” he said.