Veterans at a supported housing service in Teesside met with Jeremy Corbyn and shared their experiences of being homeless to mark Armed Forces Day.
The Labour leader toured Hardwick House, a supported housing service run by housing association Riverside which has 20 self-contained apartments for ex-service personnel who are homeless or at risk of sleeping rough.
Accompanying him on the tour were Nia Griffith MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, and Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald. Together they learnt how the specialist service helps residents to transition to civilian life after leaving the armed forces.
While there Jeremy and his team chatted to veterans including Terry Ridley to hear first-hand how Hardwick House is helping them after living on the streets.
Terry, 44, shared his life story from when he joined the army at 17 and how Hardwick House helped him to turn his life around and get back on track. He’s now living in his own home and has been in recovery for 17 months.
He said: “It was good to meet Jeremy, he was interested to hear my life story and how I came to Hardwick House and the help I received here.
“Being in the army was the only thing I wanted to do with my life. But less than a year later I got an injury and was medically discharged. I had nowhere to live. I couldn’t go back to my home because I didn’t get on with my mum. I ended up moving into shared accommodation, and living with complete strangers. It wasn’t long before I was selling drugs and taking them.”
It wasn’t long before he was working for a criminal gang which involved money laundering, stealing cars and selling drugs. This soon turned sour when they badly beat him up and he moved away from the region to recover from his injuries and start a new life.
Everything changed in 2017 when Terry was referred to Hardwick House. After counselling and therapy he is now rebuilding is life.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:
“I was impressed by this excellent facility, the warmth of the staff and the collective supportive environment that helps people to get through what can be a difficult period in their lives and help them to move on to housing and work.”
Speaking about Jeremy’s visit, John Glenton, Riverside’s Executive Director for Care and Support, said: “We were really pleased to welcome Jeremy and his team and show them around so they could see first-hand how we support people who have found it difficult to transition to civilian life and help find them employment.
“He was most impressed by the positive feedback from our residents past and present and how they’ve been helped to readjust and move on in their life. It gave him a real insight into the difficulties people leaving the armed forces are faced with, and that there’s no clear support channel to direct them to services such as Hardwick House.”