Prince William and Prince Harry visited Manchester this week, donning worker jeans and hard hats as they joined in a project to transform a derelict street into homes for British Armed Forces veterans.
The project, organised by the BBC’s DIY SOS team, is aiming to turn Canada Street in Newton Heath, Manchester, into homes for ex-service personnel. In what has been described as DIY SOS’s “most ambitious” project to date, a total of eight houses will be completely renovated and 62 house facades will be updated.
It is hoped that the project will highlight the problem of homelessness among former members of the British Armed Forces. As one Canada Street resident said, "There is no reason for our soldiers to be living on the streets, they can come and form a nice community here."
Homelessness among Ex-Service Personnel
Charities have warned that homelessness among former British soldiers is a “ticking time bomb” that will only get worse if urgent action isn’t taken.
A 2013 Sunday Mirror investigation revealed that, in the UK, 9,000 ex-service personnel are homeless and that one in 10 rough sleepers are former soldiers.
This is appalling. According to the Armed Forces Covenant, which sets out the duty owed by the UK government to armed forces personnel, soldiers “should have priority status in applying for government-sponsored affordable housing schemes, and service leavers should retain this status for a period of discharge.”
With a shocking proportion of our former soldiers sleeping rough on our streets, it’s fair to question the level of state support that they are getting to help them transition from military to civilian life.
Help for People Leaving the Armed Forces
Charities such as Veterans Aid and UK Homes 4 Heroes are dedicated to helping ex-service personnel find suitable accommodation upon leaving the armed forces.
The UK has seen a 25% rise in mental health referrals for military veterans and there are concerns that this could get worse if the cycle of homelessness is not broken. It’s heart-breaking to know that many ex-service personnel find it hard to break this cycle – as one former guardsman told the Sunday Mirror investigation, “The hardest thing is finding accommodation. Because I’ve got such a nothing background, no one wants to know. I get turned away everywhere because they think homeless means trouble. The Government don’t offer anything for us.”
Citizens Advice provide advice on housing options for people leaving the armed forces, which might be a good starting point for servicemen and women leaving the armed forces. What is definitely needed, however, is a complete change in attitudes to how our former soldiers are treated once they leave the military. Is it too much to ask for suitable accommodation to be provided for all men and women who have served our country?
The DIY SOS project is a great way of bringing the homelessness crisis to national attention. As part of this project, a support centre will be created which will help ex-service personnel with retraining and offer on-site support for those with mental or physical injuries.
This is just one street in Manchester, but hopefully it will be the start of many initiatives to help our former soldiers find homes after they leave the service.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for armed forces personnel injured during military service. Call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.