How housing associations can support veterans this Remembrance Day

Lee Buss-Blair, 11 November 2021

Remembrance Day is the time of the year that we, as a nation, recognise the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces Community. But as a member of that community myself, I know that the challenges facing those who served and survived are with us every day of the year.

Riverside, Stoll, Alabaré and Launchpad are the four main providers of supported housing for veterans in England and we have been working together to highlight the significant risk of collapse of supported housing for homeless veterans. This Remembrance Day, we are asking you to join us in taking steps to make your organisation armed forces-friendly by committing to the Armed Forces Covenant.

You may have seen wild claim on social media that veterans make up 10% to 25% of the rough sleeping population. This simply isn’t true. In fact, veterans aren’t overrepresented in the rough sleeping population, but this does not mean that veteran homelessness is not an issue.

As a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, I know that we are really bad at seeking help. We are taught in the military that we are different to civilians, dare I say it, better, and that civilians couldn’t do what we do. This is an important part of building a strong bond, critical for ensuring that a unit can function in high stress situations. But nobody has really considered the long term impact of this. I avoided accessing mainstream mental health services for a good 10 years, using the ‘they wouldn’t understand’ excuse.

As a result of this mindset, too many veterans, when only given the choice of engaging in mainstream services are likely to choose not to engage at all.

Over the past few years, veteran supported housing services have lost nearly all government funding. As a result of this we are becoming significantly less able to house veterans with higher needs, addictions, poor mental health, or disability.

It would cost just £2,781,985 per year to provide specialist supported housing to every veteran in the UK who needs it.

We are asking the government for £5,563,970 of funding which will ensure supported housing for veterans is secure for at least two years, or until the end of this parliament. We hope to secure this initial funding with a view of agreeing the mechanism for long term, sustainable funding to ensure these much needed services continue.

To ensure that this critical issue is put firmly on the government’s agenda, we are asking the sector to get behind our campaign for this funding. You can do this by including this ask for much needed veterans’ funding in any conversations you are having and by supporting our social media campaign.

Alongside supporting our calls for funding, the sector can also go further in supporting veterans within the workforce. At Riverside, we are amongst around 7,000 organisations that have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. Joining the Armed Forces Covenant will help your organisation to build its reputation as a Forces-friendly business.

The covenant sets out the relationship between the nation, the government and our Armed Forces. It recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces and their families, and it establishes how they should expect to be treated. This is something we at The Riverside Group believe in passionately.

If you have any questions, or simply wanted to discuss the covenant further, please feel free to contact me directly.

Find out more about the Armed Forces Covenant