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Housing

More than 3,500 homeless veterans slipping through net, say campaigners

No Homeless Veterans launched today calling on local authorities, homelessness charities and advice agencies to ensure veterans get the support they need to move off the streets

The number of veterans who are not being classed as homeless in official figures could be as high as 3,500 people, claims a new campaign to ensure ex-servicemen and women don’t slip through the net.

The No Homeless Veterans campaign kicked off today asking local authorities, advice agencies and homelessness charities to join forces to ensure that former forces personnel are aware of the enhanced support and housing available to them.

It comes as analysis of official homelessness statistics revealed that 1,780 homeless veterans were identified by local authority housing services, making up just 0.72 per cent of accepted cases. With previous studies suggesting up to three per cent of rough sleepers in England are ex-services, experts reckon that more than 3,500 people are not accounted for in the figures.

That is why Stoll, the leading provider of supported housing to vulnerable and disabled veterans, and Cobseo (Confederation of Service Charities) Housing Cluster and Forces in Mind Trust have launched the campaign to reduce the chances of veterans missing out on housing.

A new survey released today found that 80 per cent of the British public agree more needs to be done to identify and support veterans at risk of homelessness and 95 per cent identified stable housing as important in helping veterans adjust to civilian life.

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The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge from the nation to veterans, which includes a vow on housing that has produced schemes such as Forces Help to Buy, but it is not being upheld, says Kate Henderson, National Housing Federation chief executive.

“The fact that there are still veterans sleeping in inappropriate accommodation, in hostels and on the streets means that the pledges made in the Armed Forces Covenant are not being honoured,” she said.

“The support and housing is there for veterans, but we need to make sure everyone who comes into contact with those in housing crisis recognises their circumstances and is aware of the help that is available.

The figures only account for those whom the authorities deem homeless, and the true number of homeless people, including veterans, is likely to be much higher.”

When they fail to find assistance elsewhere, veterans often turn to The Big Issue with many vendors across the UK having a background in the forces.

But former army sergeant and campaign supporter Dame Kelly Holmes pointed out the different paths that people can take when leaving the military.

The Olympic champion said: “No veteran should be homeless. I want to encourage others and especially those on the front line dealing with homelessness, to ‘Think Veteran’ and get ex-Service personnel in need of help to the support available to them.”

On behalf of councils, Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, has called on the government to build the social housing needed to ensure veterans are housed.

He said: “Councils are often the first port of call for veterans who have left active service and their families and are committed to trying to provide them with the support they need and deserve.

“With more than one million people on housing waiting lists, the government needs to use the Queen’s Speech to give councils the powers and funding they need to get building the social housing the country desperately needs, accompanied with the right infrastructure.”

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