Government urged to make changes to end homelessness among ex-servicemen and women

New research1 released today [Tuesday 6th March] highlights how some vulnerable former servicemen and women slip through the net and end up homeless after leaving the Armed Forces.

Veterans who took part in the study experienced a varied quality of advice on transitioning from the Armed Forces and inconsistent support from local housing authorities in the years after leaving service, many of which didn’t identify the specialist support available to veterans.

The research was commissioned by veterans’ housing charity Stoll and social housing provider Riverside, conducted by the University of York and funded by the Forces in Mind Trust.

Evidence suggests that well over 1,000 ex-service personnel each year in England require urgent support to find accommodation2.  With others experiencing crises in their lives, urgent intervention is recommended to provide the necessary support for vulnerable ex-service personnel.

Josh Crooks ended up living in a caravan after his medical discharge from the Army in 2017 following six years’ service.  Josh said: “I really had a lot to sort out on being discharged from the Army and when a potential flatmate let me down I found myself in dire straits, with no sight of somewhere permanent to live.”

Alongside the new research, Stoll and Riverside, in collaboration with Cobseo, The Confederation of Service Charities, are publishing three simple recommendations:

  • Government to work with the sector to improve the transition process to prevent any serving personnel becoming homeless after service.
  • Local authorities to consistently check if someone seeking housing support is a veteran and, if they are, to have a clear plan to respond to the veterans they identify.
  • Government to ensure supported housing for veterans is properly resourced.

Tina Fairbrass served for seven years in the Royal Navy and found herself in difficulty after the subsequent breakdown of her relationship. Tina said: “Several years after leaving the Navy, I was fleeing domestic violence with my four year old daughter. I’d taken on a lot of my ex-partner’s debt and as a result I’d lost all my savings.”

Both Josh and Tina have since been housed by Stoll. Tina said: “I really don’t know where I would be without Stoll.  It doesn’t bear thinking about”

The research acknowledges the development of niche accommodation for veterans, but raises concerns over the dedicated veteran accommodation sector’s future sustainability, with proposed local ring-fenced funding for short-term supported accommodation replacing benefit-backed rental income.

Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs at Riverside, said: “Veterans are the only supported housing sector in the UK where the majority of support costs are paid for by the charities themselves. This is not sustainable and threatens to undermine our country’s ability to support homeless veterans. The Government urgently needs to put funding on a more sustainable footing to avoid more veterans becoming homeless.”

Ed Tytherleigh, Chief Executive of Stoll, said: “We believe that we can reduce the incidence of homelessness among veterans close to zero, but this will only happen with a significant shift in approach to the issue of housing ex-Service personnel.

“We are deeply concerned that vulnerable veterans, often with complex physical and mental health needs, are not being properly cared for by the country they have served.  It is critical that veterans facing homelessness – or those supporting them – know where to turn to at the right time and get the correct advice to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.”

Air Vice-Marshal, Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of The Forces in Mind Trust, said: “At FiMT our objective is to enable all ex-Service personnel to have a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life. The majority who leave the Armed Forces do have a positive transition, but there is a minority who don’t. We recognise the importance of providing a stable and secure home for all ex-Service personnel and thoroughly support the 3 evidence-based recommendations.”

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