News

Former services personnel face "homelessness ticking time bomb"

Stark warning ahead of Remembrance Sunday that number of ex-military UK homeless will grow as stats show 7,000 have armed forces background

Poppy armed forces

As Remembrance Sunday approaches and the nation pays respect to the fallen, a leading military health expert has warned of a “ticking time bomb” of homelessness for armed forces veterans.

John Harrison, RAF chaplain and former Army nursing officer, told The Big Issue that aftershocks of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are still to be felt.

The country was at war for 12 years and a lot of long-term mental health problems manifest themselves long after veterans have left the service. The problem is a ticking time bomb

“There has always been something of a correlation between veterans and homelessness,” said Harrison, a lecturer at The Liverpool John Moores University and Ministry of Defence.

“The numbers are not as bad as they used to be. However, the country was at war for 12 years and a lot of long-term mental health problems, such as PTSD, depression and anxiety, manifest themselves long after veterans have left the service. The problem is a ticking time bomb.

“A lot of servicemen are used to looking after themselves while they are in the service. I was virtually ‘homeless’ for eight months while I was serving in Iraq.”

According to Harrison, there are an estimated 7,000 homeless ex-service personnel now – compared with 9,000 in 2013 – and the aftershocks of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are still to be felt.

Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) report that 285 veterans across London were known to be living on the streets between April and June this year.

And partner charity St Mungo’s found that around 50 out of nearly 2,000 of their clients were from an ex-forces background – a proportion of two per cent, according to their client survey.

A proportion of ex-services personnel turn to The Big Issue when they become homeless: between eight and 12 per cent of our vendors are known to have served with the military.

The Armed Forces Covenant – the pledge from the nation to veterans, which includes a vow on housing that has produced schemes such as Forces Help to Buy – has had a positive impact, said Harrison. All 407 local authorities in Great Britain and four in Northern Ireland have signed up to the covenant, as well as more than 1,500 other organisations, since it was introduced in 2000. But he added that more research is urgently needed.

“We certainly need more research in the area as a lot of the figures are London-centric, although there is a pull to London for many homeless ex-services personnel, so they tend to gravitate to there,” he said. “The Armed Forces Covenant has certainly been a big help and, as a serving Army reservist, it has helped me to get some of my guys housed. Campaigns such as the Houses for Heroes in Scotland and The Independent’s Homeless Veterans Appeal have also helped.”

Introducing RORA Jobs and Training

Whether you’re in work, currently unemployed, or worried about your future job security, Big Issue RORA Jobs & Training is here to help. Search our latest jobs, register for alerts, browse training courses and find your next role today.  

Find out more

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
UK's top 0.1% earners emit 22 times more transport greenhouse gases than low income households
Climate change

UK's top 0.1% earners emit 22 times more transport greenhouse gases than low income households

Dignified quality of life or gaslighting? Tories' 'triple lock plus' pension pledge divides voters
pensioner
General election 2024

Dignified quality of life or gaslighting? Tories' 'triple lock plus' pension pledge divides voters

National service for Gen Z, tax breaks for boomers: Why 'desperate' Tories are chasing older voters
General Election 2024

National service for Gen Z, tax breaks for boomers: Why 'desperate' Tories are chasing older voters

TSB Bank forced to change buy-to-let mortgage policy after renters' furious sit-in protest
Renters from Acorn union occupied TSB branches to force a climbdown on buy-to-let mortgages
Renting

TSB Bank forced to change buy-to-let mortgage policy after renters' furious sit-in protest

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know