More than 200 forces veterans who ended up sleeping rough on London’s streets have been helped into housing and employment over the last year.
A £300,000 funding package from City Hall was allocated to help former services personnel into temporary hostels, long-term supported accommodation, jobs and training.
Veterans have historically been among the capital’s most entrenched rough sleepers, but charities and the Mayor have targeted them.
Government figures this week showed that London had 543 regular rough sleepers last year, 22 per cent of the national total. It was the first year that the number in the capital fell — by three per cent — although it rose seven per cent in the rest of England.
Boris Johnson said the plight of homeless veterans, many of whom have had relationship breakdowns, bereavements and mental and physical health problems, was “particularly tragic”.
He said: “They fall on very hard times, they’ve served their country, and often they’ve ended up on the streets. This problem is not going away. There are large numbers of people coming on to London’s streets. We’ve got to stop them getting entrenched.”
Tory Assembly member Gareth Bacon, who campaigned for the funding, said: “There are people returning home who are suffering from a range of social problems, including homelessness, and we owe it to them to help them get back on their feet.”
An estimated 50 veterans have used the Mayor’s No Second Night Out campaign, 25 are being helped by his social impact bond for rough sleepers, 72 were supported by a £42,000 grant to Veterans Aid and 82 have been helped into supported accommodation or treatment facilities.
Ex-soldier ends spiral of despair
Former soldier David Tovey, 39, revealed how he was finally helped off the streets.
“I was in the Army for six years, mostly as a chef. After leaving in 1997, I opened a bar and restaurant and was a head chef at various venues. Then I had a stroke and had to stop work. I was diagnosed with colon cancer and neurosyphilis and had a heart attack. I had chemo and the cancer is in remission, but I became very depressed and in 2012 tried to kill myself five times in a week and was then diagnosed as HIV-positive.
“I was trying to study, so I was getting into rent arrears. I ended up sleeping in my car and then on the streets in London for four months.
“A parking attendant let outreach workers know about me. They were able to help me into housing via the Mayor’s No Living on the Streets scheme, delivered by St Mungo’s. That team gave me a place to stay and supported me, alongside the Pilion Trust and Veterans Aid, into temporary housing at the West London Mission, where I am now.”
Article courtesy of Pippa Crerar, City Hall Editor.