Collectively, we have a strong sense of duty and responsibility for our veterans. Support for our forces, in particular for those who have lost their lives or have been injured in conflict, rightly remains considerable. As many as one in ten people have spent time in our Armed Forces and some of them will require particular help as a result of their military service.
The Homeless Veterans Campaign is a joint venture by the Evening Standard, The Independent, the i, London Live, i100, ABF The Soldiers' Charity and Veterans Aid. As President of The Soldiers' Charity, I know that we are committed to working collaboratively to bring both traditional and innovative solutions to the care of our veterans.
I have been associated with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity for many years, particularly during my time as Chief of the General Staff. It’s been my privilege to be its President since 2012. During that time, I’ve seen how the Charity takes great care to look after those who are in need, as well as working to identify emerging issues in the welfare space. As the National Charity of the British Army, it is responsible for a vast range of those needing help; from injured soldiers, right through to our most elderly veterans. This breadth of work could be overwhelming, but the Charity, through great commitment and dedication, stewards the money carefully and competently, to more than 5,000 individuals each year and many more thousands through its work with other organisations.
This campaign sets out to tackle the issue of veterans facing homelessness from every level. It not only seeks to raise vital funds for veterans, it also aims to bring Army commanders, politicians and the public together to join the debate and to tackle the issues together. It's an ambitious aim, but if we can draw together strands like the Armed Forces Covenant, support from national and local government, and charitable help with this campaign, we will have done much more than just raise money.
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Those who served their country need us to serve them
Editorial: Back home, but without a home
Full links: The Who, What and Why of our appeal
If we take any group of 1,000 veterans, they are likely to have at least 5,000 years' service between them. The Army has of course been a huge part of my life, and has afforded me opportunities, training and a real sense of purpose. This is of course true for most soldiers, and the camaraderie and adventure are often the attraction. Having said all that, it can be difficult, dark and dangerous. You are away from home, your family, your home comforts. The sacrifices are great, and can be an especial burden on those families left behind.
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
1/20 Glynn Barrell
Glyn Barrell is among the veterans hoping to benefit from the self-build scheme in Plymouth
2/20 Rachel Holliday
Rachel Holliday is converting a police station into a hostel
3/20 Androcles Scicluna
Veteran Androcles Scicluna says performing boosted his confidence
4/20 Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole, 51, from London, spent three years in the Army but left in 1982
5/20 Maurillia Simpson
Former servicewoman Maurillia Simpson with the medals she won at last year’s Invictus Games
Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
6/20 Martin Rutledge
Head of The Soldiers’ Charity, Martin Rutledge, says charities sometimes allow emotion to dictate their choices
7/20 Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin wants to open people’s eyes to the cycle of political violence
8/20 Robin Horsfall
Robin Horsfall, who fought in the Falklands and helped end the Iranian embassy siege
9/20 Mark Hayward
A bed for the night and food helped Mark Hayward out of misfortune
10/20 Ashley Rosser
Ashley Rosser, who served in the RAF, at the Veterans Aid hostel in east London
11/20 Dave Henson
Britain's Invictus Games captain Dave Henson says veterans’ charities helped rebuild his life
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
12/20 Hugh Milroy
Hugh Milroy dispels myths about war-zone veterans through his work as the CEO of Veterans Aid
13/20 Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull under a covenant connecting veterans with employers
14/20 Mark McKillion
Mark McKillion's experience of living on the street eventually left him feeling as though the only way to escape was to end his life. He survived his desperate jump from Westminster Bridge, and VA's help has restored his "faith in humanity"
Nigel, a navy veteran, remembers living on the beach in the run-up to Christmas, when it rained every day for a week. He slept on a bench for seven years whilst suffering from Parkinson's disease.
16/20 Keith Cooper
Before Keith Cooper had his place confirmed at Avondale House in Newcastle, he was working out whether he could afford to buy a tent to live in
17/20 Simon Weston
Simon Weston, a Falklands War veteran, said even something as simple as a cup of tea can be an important step in getting the life of a homeless veteran back on track.
18/20 Ian Palmer, professor of military psychiatry
Ian Palmer, the first professor of military psychiatry to the British Armed Forces, says that the depiction of all ex-service personnel having post-traumatic stress disorder may stop people who really need help from getting it
19/20 Douglas Cameron
Evgeny Lebedev with Douglas Cameron, who had a hernia operation while serving in Burma
Johnnie Shand Kidd
20/20 Veterans Aid
General Sir Mike Jackson, President of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, called for donations to the Homeless Veterans appeal
On leaving the Forces many use the skills they have learned; resourcefulness and resilience, to successfully move on to a civilian life. But some find that transition very difficult indeed. Leaving your home, your friends, your job, sometimes moving to a different part of the country, can be too much for some – and that is both a tragedy for the individual and a loss to the country at large that should be able to exploit the investment made in these highly-trained individuals.
There are things we can and must do. Charities must work with government and local authorities, and with each other, to build a support network which both aims to prevent veterans becoming homeless, and to step in if they do. The typical narrative of a veteran sleeping on the streets is thankfully unusual. More common is a veteran moving from friend to friend, sleeping on the sofa, or staying with family short-term. There is no stability, and much-reduced chances of finding stable employment. We must not forget that these issues can surface some time after soldiers leave the Army. Some find work initially, but then begin to struggle as they lack the structured existence they're used to. We can continue to work with those still serving to educate, provide life skills, and preparing them for life beyond soldiering, even from being raw recruits. There continues to be a place for charities to work with the Army in this regard.
Donating to this campaign means that you’re joining in collectively recognising the need to help our veterans. We have a duty to do so.Reuse content