Advertisement
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

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement

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.”

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits
Energy crisis

Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits

'What a load of bull': Martin Lewis rubbishes claims government can't act on energy bills crisis
Energy bills

'What a load of bull': Martin Lewis rubbishes claims government can't act on energy bills crisis

Four reasons why net zero is a solution - not a problem - for the energy crisis
Net zero

Four reasons why net zero is a solution - not a problem - for the energy crisis

Huge energy bill hike leaves one of Britain’s biggest food banks facing closure by Christmas
Food banks

Huge energy bill hike leaves one of Britain’s biggest food banks facing closure by Christmas

Most Popular

Read All
All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays
1.

All the places where kids can eat free during the summer holidays

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights
2.

This Twitter bot is exposing celebrities taking three-minute private jet flights

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?
3.

Will free school meals and vouchers be offered over the summer holidays?

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits
4.

Estate agents caught saying they don't rent homes to people on benefits

Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.