Soldiers from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at the Berlin gate

Communities who care support veterans facing homelessness.

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How important is it for veterans facing homelessness to have support from a caring community to which they belong?

Three weeks ago, I got an email from Jamie Lee, a social worker, who works for Wigan council. She was supporting a gentleman from Leigh and currently, was living in adult residential care for those suffering from dementia.

This gentleman had suffered financial abuse and had nothing. However, the assessments he underwent showed he was more than capable of living on his own. He knew it too and wanted his independence back within the communities in which he belonged.

Our veteran facing homelessness is 86 years of age.

Jamie Lee told me that at the moment, he’s living in a residential care home for people with dementia. But, she said, ”he doesn’t have dementia, he has early onset dementia.”

Jamie Lee added,” he spends most of his time in the conservatory, chatting with staff and visitors; he has nothing in common with the other residents.” She ended saying, ”he shouldn’t be there because there could be someone else who needs it more.”

Wharfdale Supported Living accommodation in Leigh, Greater Manchester is where Jamie Lee and his social worker, Emma, have secured residency for our gentleman. Leigh is important because Leigh is his community and where he belongs.

Then Jamie Lee shared a very important fact, our gentleman is an Armed Forces veteran who once served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment. She said, when he talks to me, he focuses on his life in the military. He shares stories about about guarding prisoners of war at Spandau Prison and is very proud of his ability to speak German from his service in the mid-50s. He finds healing by revisiting his past and helps him process the trauma he’s been through.

Jamie Lee got in touch with Verve Community CIC as we had founded the Veterans hub, Leigh CIC, at the Spinners Mill, Leigh. Also, the Spinners Mill is a mere two minutes from his new home, and Verve are also members of the Wigan deal program. Jamie Lee needed furniture, she asked ‘ do you know anyone who can help? ’

Leigh & Lowton Sailing Club- A charity with a heart.

I finance the hub by running the café at a local charity, the Leigh & Lowton Sailing club, on weekends. I find inspiration in the café; it’s a stunning location serving homemade food and they are lovely people. Also, there’s no problem I can’t solve whilst baking a cake or a lasagne, it’s my other life, and I love it.

I met Louise and Nigel at the club, they are good people. On the night Jamie Lee told me what she needed Louise randomly emailed me pictures of furniture they were moving out from Nigel’s father’s house. Nigel’s father has dementia and needs full time care to meet his needs. It was heart-breaking. She asked, ‘do you know anyone in your veterans community who could make use of them?’ Stunned, I replied, ‘ I do!’

We were both a bit shocked but we grasped the significance of the moment. It felt like a valuable gift, passed from one man in need of care to another who wasn’t ready. It was humbling…

As always, there was a deadline. Louise and Nigel needed the furniture removed by Monday lunchtime. So, I did what I always do; I reach out to my community and take the kindness of others with gratitude.

Jo Platt, MP manages the Spinners Mill in Leigh. I asked Jo for other charities who could help. Jo has a good heart and she gave me names and numbers and more importantly, she rang them herself to explain and tell them I was going to call. This gesture made a difference; it’s the little things that make big things happen.

The community of Leigh support Veterans facing homelessness.

Jo said, ”get in touch with Liz from Higher Folds Works CIC. Liz is like you, she gets things done.” She was right. I asked Liz if she knew someone who had a van to collect the furniture from Wigan and store until needed. She rang me back five minutes later, wanting the address. The van and man were on the M61!

Two journeys later, and they had stored the furniture in the shed at the community gardens on the Higher Folds estate. This too, was important because it was forecast heavy rain for the next five days.

This being organised, I shifted my priority to his holistic support. This gentleman is 86-years of age and starting anew. I know the potential trauma he would face, especially once settled and had the time to process everything.

He was regressing back to his military life. It was his coping mechanism recollecting happy memories as a young man. I reached out to Armed Forces charities I work with, and found details for his former regiment. We needed to work together because he was one of theirs, too.

The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regiment support veterans facing homelessness.

I emailed the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders museum and explained my reason for contacting them. I emphasized about how our gentleman speaks only about his life in the Army and we knew he served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment, mid to late 50s. He also speaks very good German as he once served with the Number 4 section, guarding both Stirling Castle and Spandau prison, which housed Nazi prisoners.

I received permission to share his name, and then I got straight to the point. Would they send any memorabilia or photos from that era to remind him of happier times and offer a source of comfort as he starts a new chapter in his life? I explained the circumstances of how our veteran came to be facing homelessness, and prayed they would reply.

Captain Rod Mackenzie from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum called two days later. He didn’t beat around the bush either. Yes, he could help and would happily send images to me from this era. He asked if there was anything else he could do to help this gentleman? I explained the circumstances, and he was angry, like me. But we acknowledge that today’s world is very different to the days of the 1950’s, and it’s not for the better.

Captain Mackenzie knew our gentleman was a Highlander. He was one of them and if he needed anything we must let him know. He’s aware of our man’s vulnerability; he’s one of theirs too and is now on their Christmas card list. He will also receive a monthly newsletter from the regiment he belongs.

Many veterans facing homelessness don’t have Armed Forces Pensions.

I recalled Jamie Lee said that our man didn’t have his Armed Forces pension. I asked Captain Mackenzie if he could help with this? He told me he refers pensions to other organisations and recommended one. I called the referral and again, I was referred somewhere else. I gave up, and decided to re-address this later.

I called Captain Mackenzie and told him about my call. I said, I’ve reached out to many veterans’ groups who refer me to other organisations over the years; it becomes a circle that never ends. It causes frustration and shouldn’t be this way.

Leigh has many veterans who are without Armed Forces pensions. Financial hardships, relationship breakdown, and homelessness often go hand in hand because the future they were promised as they served was denied them.

Maybe in todays technological world we can put together a better care system to help veterans access support networks, as per the Armed Forces covenant?

But for now, this gentleman is 86 years of age and needs his Armed Forces pension. We have agreed to work together; alongside Jamie Lee and Emma, his social workers, Jo Platt MP and her contacts to help. Given what they did for us, it’s the least we can do, isn’t it?

Our gentleman now embraces his Highlander roots.

I worry about the little things, such as the ill-fitting curtains and the malfunctioning washing machine because of the water outlet. I’m concerned because I have allergies; maybe Nigel’s dad had cats as pets? Basically, I worry about the little stuff because usually, they are the most important things.

I gave my friend Mark Candland a call on Monday because he’s the guy who cleans my sofa. I told him what I was doing and he knows me. Mark was about to have his lunch however, today was my lucky day as his appointment that afternoon was cancelled suddenly. He said, give me half an hour and I’ll be there.

Two days later I watched our gentleman siting on his lovely clean sofa, doing his crossword in his new home, surrounded by people who care. And, as he embraces his Highlander roots, he is surrounded by photo’s of nostalgia and a sense of belonging. Now, our gentleman has future within the Armed Forces family, near and afar and a community to which he belongs, once more.

Communities step up and support veterans facing homelessness.

I helped set up the Salford Veterans Breakfast Club with my brother years ago. My brother, an Armed Forces Veteran, wanted a place to connect with like-minded individuals, grab a brew, share banter and feel a sense of belonging. I understood. We were brought up in a military household as our dad served in the Kings Regiment. Military life never leaves whether you served or not.

My brother used to make me laugh. He’d say, your a civvy, you don’t understand. Maybe I didn’t but as a sister, I posted regular letters when he was stationed in Northern Ireland during the troubles. I knew how important those letters were to him. Mainly I told him of the special offers in Woolworths and what was going on in Swinton, our hometown. Also, he was thoroughly spoiled when he came home on leave, and my home became his for however long he needed it.

Having the consistency of home is invaluable for all of us. It’s a basic human right, and yet, we see veterans facing homelessness becoming a normal part of our daily lives. How have we become so conditioned to accepting this is normal? When did we decide to punish those who gave their all and can no longer contribute?

veterans facing homelessness

Our gentleman is now in his new home, surrounded by people who love him. I respect them and share their feelings, but it breaks my heart that at 86 years of age, he had to start all over again. The only comfort I take from this, it brought together a community who cared and said, enough is enough. This stops now.

Verve community CIC supports Veterans in our community.

Recently, we founded the Veterans Hub, Leigh, CIC at the Spinners Mill, Leigh and managed by Jo Platt MP.

One younger veteran recently said, ”older veterans don’t understand what we have had to go through. You need to take this into consideration.”

This younger veteran receives PIP payments and support from many charities to help with his trauma. He also has a loving family who care for him, he’s a very lucky man. Others are not so lucky, and we must take this into consideration, too. Every circumstance is unique, as each person. and thankfully, good hearts understand…

On Thursday, our man is invited to a veterans lunch organised by Compassion in Action, Leigh. Also, our local Wetherspoons hosts the Leigh Armed Forces Breakfast club every Saturday ( he enjoys a delicate glass of chardonnay). And, if he chooses to, he’ll become a permanent fixture at the Veterans Hub, Leigh, CIC. ( once we finally get the room ready.)

The Wharfdale community is the most important part. It’s his home. They will look after him and love him unconditionally, because he’s one of theirs, and they have gentle hearts, too.

Contact Verve Community CIC

I knew how important clean furniture and furnishings were, but for me, nothing compares to the feeling of belonging somewhere that brings you comfort. Our veteran needed a clean and loving home that was filled with memories from happier times.

Also, I understand the importance of the little stuff because they make the big stuff happen.

Verve also understands the value of kindness, especially towards those from different generations, given the stark differences in the world they grew up in compared to today.

Finally, I follow the golden rule my nan taught me: treat others as you want to be treated.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Verve Community, reach out using the form below. Together, we make a difference, the Verve way…


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