New drive to help homeless veterans

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New moves to help hundreds of homeless former soldiers, sailors and airmen living in hostels or on the streets will be announced by the Government next week.

Estimates suggest as many as a quarter of those sleeping rough across Britain have a background in the forces. Some are as young as 16, although many are older people who did national service.

In an effort to help them, the Ministry of Defence will publish a guide suggesting how they can adjust to civilian life. It has been produced by the Ex-Service Action Group in conjunction with the Government's rough sleepers' unit, to raise awareness of the services and advice available.

The Prince of Wales will help to launch the initiative on Monday with a visit to the Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation in west London, which provides care for about 220 former service personnel. Russell Marriott, director of fund-raising, said: "When you are in the forces everything is done for you and you are told what to do. There's a lot of bonding through alcohol because of the drinking in the forces. If you leave after five, 10 or 25 years you may not know how to deal with your own bills and some people cannot cope. Their marriages may break down and they may find themselves out of their homes."

He said some people ended up living rough suffering from traumatic stress disorder or the effects of Gulf War syndrome.

The number of people sleeping rough in England is estimated at 700. But Mr Marriott said many of the estimated 40,000 people living in hostels and squats across London had a background in the forces.

David Heath, a work and pensions spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "Britain owes a great debt of gratitude to those who laid down their lives for their country, and to all those servicemen and women who have served in the armed forces. It is essential that the Government should properly recognise [their] rights."