Remembrance Sunday: Where’s Home?

To commemorate Remembrance Sunday (November 11), Simon Allcock, Riverside’s Head of Projects, reflects on the challenges faced by ex-service personnel when they leave the Armed Forces, and asks where’s home for them?

Simon Allcock, Riverside’s Head of Projects

Talk to anyone about joining the armed services and it won’t be long before the subject of ‘home’ comes up. Joining the services can be a lonely experience in some ways, especially to begin with. Young people leaving home for the first time, missing home, missing family and friends. Familiar haunts are replaced by new places, and with that, the shared experience a strong new camaraderie grows. A deep trust builds through action packed new experiences shared together.

As time moves on our understanding of what home actually is – can also change, and when we don’t settle in a particular place for long, and transience becomes normal, home can become the company we keep. For people in the services, fellow service men and women can often become both friends and family and serving in the Forces becomes your home. And so, when service eventually comes to an end, it can have a devastating impact. It can feel like you have lost your home as well as your employment and support network too. An overwhelming feeling of losing everything that you had during your service, your military family – is common among veterans. You don’t know where to go, what to do, everything feels unfamiliar. You have no home.

Every year between 18,000 and 20,000 people leave the Armed Forces. It seems particularly unfair that after serving your country – often going into a war zone, seeing action and finally leaving – veterans enter a civilian world characterised by a housing crisis and massive demand for affordable housing. 

A world where the skills required to navigate this maze can be precisely the ones you haven’t been able to build up in the forces, because accommodation is always provided and subsidised. Your support network is gone, you don’t feel a gravitational pull to a particular place and in some cases relationships with non-forces friends and family may have deteriorated over time.

It’s no wonder so many people struggle with the transition to civilian life.

Since 2000 Riverside has supported over 15,500 veterans through our specialist supported veterans accommodation in Middlesbrough, Catterick and Aldershot as well as through our veterans’ accommodation helpline SPACES. Over the past few months it has been my privilege to work closely with these services where I have seen first-hand how we not only provide affordable accommodation, but also offer our customers the support required to make new networks, re-establish old ones, to find work and stick with it, and ultimately become fully independent and get back in the driving seat.

So, as we commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War – remembering the countless numbers who gave their lives as well as those who returned home from fighting overseas – it is fitting to reflect that veterans services such as those offered by Riverside, and their role in creating a sense of ‘home’, are still so critical for our ex-service men and women this present day.