Homeless veterans of war supported to achieve independent living

Chris Symons, scheme manager Mike Jackson House

I have been scheme manager at Mike Jackson House for the past eight years and during that time it’s been so rewarding to support homeless armed forces veterans through challenging times.  Health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, lie at the heart of our work as well as helping many veterans with the difficult transition to civilian life.

Through our range of services at Mike Jackson House, we’ve been able to help over 300 Veterans achieve independent living and improve the quality of their life. And on World Mental Health Day we want to give a shout out to both the Big Lottery Fund and the Royal British Legion for funding services at Mike Jackson House which will prove invaluable to continuing and building upon our successful service.

Services they are helping to fund include:

Access to specialist counselling

  • One-to- one and group interventions and support groups, encouraging  healthy eating and fitness and offering Pre-Tenancy training
  • Participation in volunteering activities in the community
  • Referrals to substance misuse services as well as specialist one-to-one interventions and support.

Read Malcolm’s story to understand the amazing benefits mental health interventions can bring…

Malcolm came to Mike Jackson House (MJH) in 2014, a year after he was medically discharged from the Army with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Malcolm’s marriage had broken down as a result of changes in his behaviour due to mental health issues and heavy drinking and sadly he became homeless.  He suffered from depression, anxiety and anger issues as a direct result of what he had witnessed and experienced on tour in Afghanistan. He came to Mike Jackson House directly on release from hospital, following an attempt to commit suicide.

When Malcolm first moved in, he was given weekly support sessions for his mental health issues and his PTSD.  After initial interventions and intensive support from the team, Malcolm was keen to get his life back on track, retrain and get back to employment. However, he was extremely chaotic and still suffering from acute mental health issues and was advised he was unfit for work. Malcolm would often skip meals either because of lack of appetite, motivation, or simply because he forget, so his keyworker prepared some meal plans with him. He would often also forget appointments so was given a diary to use and was encouraged and prompted to carry out general living skills. 

In March 2015 Malcolm was referred to the employment advisor who he met twice a week throughout his stay at MJH. Whilst exploring both voluntary and future career options, Malcolm developed his IT skills and completed a beginner’s IT course. With assistance, Malcolm produced a CV and was nominated for and completed a confidence building course.  Malcolm acknowledged he struggled with writing and spelling, so was enrolled on a yearlong literacy course at the local college.

In summer 2015 Malcolm began volunteering two days per week for a charity helping individuals with learning difficulties. This added some much needed structure to Malcolm’s week and was a stepping stone back in to the working environment and as a consequence his confidence greatly improved.  He continued to do this for a year.

Over the next few months, with on going coaching from specialist support staff, Malcolm’s life began to settle and he began to feel better in himself. He decided on a career in driving. He already had his HGV licence from his time in the Army, and in February this year, with funding from a military charity, Malcolm completed a week long course to gain his CPC and ADR licences which enabled him to secure work through local agencies. Malcolm’s keyworker assisted him with bidding for properties, and soon after he completed his driving course, Malcolm moved out of Mike Jackson House in to his own accommodation.  His confidence had grown so much, he no longer needed the support network of MJH.

Malcolm is now living locally in a one bedroom flat, rented from a housing association. He still works part time driving but has also completed a business start-up course. He is now actively and successfully running his own business and to date, has a growing bank of contracts and has taken on another resident from Mike Jackson House.