Tobey’s story – the vital role of veterans supported housing

Riverside operates three specialist supported housing services for veterans in Aldershot, North Yorkshire and Middlesbrough, as well as delivering two housing advice services.  

These services work with veterans with the most complex support needs, including mental and physical health, substance misuse, drug and alcohol dependency and offending behaviour.  

However, owing to a loss of centralised funding, specialist supported housing for veterans is under threat.  

Supported housing for Veterans is the only form of supported housing which doesn’t receive the majority of its funding from the state. It has been estimated that only 2% of Veteran supported housing in England is in receipt of Government funding for support. 

Supported housing provides a positive role in giving our veterans the specialist support they need to tackle those complex needs and promote independent living skills such as budgeting and managing a tenancy. Skills that are not typically required in the Forces and for many veterans’ ones which they are developing for the first time in their adult life.  

Almost 20 years after serving in the Armed Forces, Tobey found himself homeless. Thankfully, he managed to get help and support at Riverside’s specialist supported accommodation for veterans in Aldershot – Mike Jackson House.  

Read Tobey’s first-hand story about the positive and vital role specialist supported housing plays for veterans affected by homelessness.  

Tobey Stratford, originally from Worthing. Served with the Royal Artillery for seven years. 

I was 15 years old when I left school, and I went straight to the Army. It was 1991, and I signed up with the Royal Artillery. I did seven years, with tours in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. I served until 1998.

The Army does its best to prepare you for when you’re going to leave. They give you support, they put you on training courses to get you ready for what lies ahead. When I left, I got a very well-paying job in IT. A few years later, I went to university and film school. But then, almost twenty years after my time in the Forces, I found myself homeless.

The problem is, problems don’t necessarily arise as soon as you leave. Sometimes it is five, ten, fifteen years later than issues like PTSD and trauma come to the fore. Just because you left the Forces ten years ago doesn’t mean that some of the experiences you had when you were serving aren’t still with you.

Everyone has their own story and reason for being at Mike Jackson House. I’m a disabled veteran. Some people are going through a marriage break up, some people have hit bad times because their business has gone bankrupt, others have PTSD or even addiction issues. If there was no Mike Jackson House where would these people go? I can tell you. They would end up living on the streets.

In the 21st century, we can do better than that as a nation, can’t we? We’re talking about looking after people who as young as seventeen, eighteen years old, were sent off to serve around the world at a politician’s whim. So, when they come back, and they need some help, are those same politicians really just going to turn their backs on them?

The staff here are brilliant. They are highly trained and many of them are ex-Forces too, so they really get it. They understand veterans’ issues, whether that’s PTSD, disabilities, addictions, or whatever. The point is, that by understanding you, and by giving you the right kind of compassion and support, they can help you to get back on your feet. To re-establish you back out in civilian life.

Everyone who comes to Mike Jackson House is given a pathway to help them onto the next stage of their life. My pathway won’t be the same as anyone else’s – it is all really specific to the person, and geared to help them with exactly what they need. The staff work so hard to get you back on track.

Without Mike Jackson House what would we do, and where would we go? Even though local councils are obliged to provide housing for homeless veterans in theory, they will always prioritise women in distress, children, and old age pensioners. And that is rightly so. But it leaves us homeless veterans in limbo, too often with no place to go.

The four main providers of supported housing for homeless British military Veterans have joined forces to warn of the collapse of services for Veterans who need them most. 

Riverside, Launchpad, Alabaré, and Stoll have written to the HM Treasury seeking financial support from the Government to prevent the closure of services for homeless military veterans with complex needs, which are almost entirely reliant on donations from charities and good causes. 

You can read more about the campaign to end veterans’ homelessness and pledge your support here:  

Support our campaign for Veterans services | Riverside