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There are thousands of homeless veterans.

Government statistics do not include people who satisfy the legal definition of homelessness, but have not applied to be classified as such, nor people who were officially recognised as homeless in previous years, but were deemed "not in priority need" (and thus not entitled to accommodation). Vast numbers of single homeless people can be found in both groups.  In England and Wales a person is not entitled to any accommodation unless deemed to be "vulnerable", so single homeless people have less incentive to apply.  In Scotland these men and women are entitled to temporary accommodation and from 2012, are entitled to permanent accommodation.

Single homeless people are included in the "Hidden Homeless" definition used by Crisis, which comprises all those who satisfy the legal definition of homelessness, but have not been provided with accommodation.  Crisis has estimated  that there are tens of thousands of hidden homeless people.  It is in this category where we may expect to find the majority of the ex Armed Forces personnel.  This means that it will never be possible to provide official statistics about the number of Armed Forces veterans that are homeless. 

The recent wave of redundancies within the Armed Forces and an increase in mental health issues faced by returning troops will only exacerbate this situation.



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Root Causes

It takes a minimum of 6 months to institutionalise a civilian to becoming what is classed as a satisfactory performing soldier.  Why then would society expect a former soldier to revert to living life as a civilian after a brief exit process?   The Armed Forces are highly disciplined institutions; they have to be to carry our their responsibilities, but the rest of society is not like that, and moving from a very structured environment to one with comparatively little structure, can be extremely challenging for veterans and their families.  

Some veterans find securing full time employment difficult and may spiral into offending behaviour, which in turn can result in a custodial sentence.  Some men and women discover that prison life holds the discipline and routine  they miss from their former service careers.  The number of veterans who find themselves re-offending to ensure that they remain in an institutional environment is rapidly increasing.  As in the Armed Forces, a veteran who finds himself in custody is told what to do and the time he should do it.  This provides a feeling of security and it is essential that the re-offending cycle is challenged and in time broken, whilst educating the individual to adjust back into society.  This can only be achieved through a dedicated team of professionals who offer support and guidance prior to, and upon release from prison.  By offering these clients a place to stay, regular food and a chance to remain occupied, we are able to assist with the rehabilitation process.

There is an extraordinarily strong bond that develops between members of the Armed Forces.  Their lives are (or have been) in the hands of each other on a daily basis for months, possibly years.  Many have witnessed, experienced and participated together in dramatic and powerful events that only they can truly understand, and this binds them together even more tightly.  Leaving the Services and leaving the unit is a form of bereavement and finding each other and being together, sleeping rough on the streets, can be much more emotionally supportive than living alone. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to discuss their experiences with family, friends and loved ones.  Barriers build and resentment can form; how could a civilian possibly understand what it was like to serve your country, witnessing things that most people could barely imagine and to fight for your beliefs when necessary?  A feeling of alienation can develop to the point that it is impossible for the veteran to remain in a family unit.

PTSD is a widely  recognised illness, particularly amongst former Armed Forces personnel, however, it may take several years to appear in its full blown format.  It often takes many forms and is a permanent condition, the symptoms of which require active and preferably pre-emptive management.  Combat Stress provides intensive treatment and therapies for those men and women who have been referred to one of their centres or out reach teams.  Their intervention and support enable many of these men and women to lead successful and happy lives.  PTSD affects individuals from all backgrounds, but can be difficult to manage without the support of a loving and understanding family and network of friends.   The early and often undiagnosed symptoms of PTSD can result in the breakdown of relationships, which in turn can lead  to homelessness.

Exmod Ltd "Forget-Me-Not" does not offer treatment for mental illness, addiction or substance abuse, nor can we prevent offending.  We believe that specialist work should be left to the professionals such as Combat Stress, the Probation Service and Addiction Support Organisations. We offer accommodation for homeless veterans who for whatever reason have found themselves living on the streets; many of whom suffer from alcohol or substance abuse or mental illness including PTSD and depression.

All treatments available to our clients are complimentary and carried out by qualified therapists.  We encourage our clients to stimulate the body and mind whilst in our care and discuss individual needs upon arrival at our centre. Armed Forces personnel and former Armed Forces personnel are naturally proud people; asking for help is very difficult and a huge step.  By using an organisation which is largely run and staffed by veterans, this transition has proved to be much easier.


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