Monday, 25 June 2012

Ex-Servicemen homeless because of immigrants?

Is it true that homeless ex-Servicemen cannot get into shelters because these are full of homeless immigrants?

A friend rang me the other day and followed up with an email about care of (or rather, lack of care of) homeless ex-servicemen

This is not a new story, regrettably. I had known that perhaps up to 25% of the homeless were veterans, a disturbing enough statistic. But I had not heard what what my friend went on to tell me.

And I should say that she is a former senior diplomat, who has since worked unpaid for a charity, and no ‘pushover’ when it comes to hard-luck stories or urban myths.

Disgraceful: It is estimated that around a quarter of those currently homeless are ex- servicemen
Disgraceful: It is estimated that around a quarter of those currently homeless are ex- servicemen

She had come out of Sloane Square tube station to find a man with a placard declaring he was ex-services and homeless. She interrogated him. He had been with the Royal Artillery for seventeen years, serving with 29 Commando Regiment, he said. His name was Stephen.

He gave her his army number, which she subsequently checked with contacts, and the facts tallied.

He was now homeless and had no source of income, he said: the splendid charity ‘Veterans Aid’, which for years has been struggling to cope as a primary point of help to men like Stephen, could only offer him a bed in ten days’ time, he told her.

He had been to SSAFA, to Citizens Advice etc, who signposted him on, and then to ‘Shelter’. And here’s where the story really begins to disgust – to say the least.

He said that all the civilian shelters were full of Somalis and Poles – which my friend tells me, according to her colleagues in the charity sector, is true, except that in rural areas it is more Somalis than Poles.

And it is, of course, true that until you have an address you cannot receive benefits.

Now, I cannot begin to think how a former soldier who was good enough to serve in the Commando Gunners for seventeen years ends up on the streets, but that’s another issue.

I can understand how the purblind immigration and profligate welfare policies of successive governments have made jobs and housing harder to get for British people (and abhor those policies).

What I simply cannot understand – if it is true – is how we have arrived at a situation where our charities are being overwhelmed by immigrant need to the exclusion of our own, as in the case of Stephen.

Is there really an absolute legal right to come to this country to beg? If there is, has anyone calculated the potential cost? If there isn’t, why are our charities having to work in this way?

The old saying that ‘Charity begins at home’ cannot be used to deny charity to those outside the home; – a destitute Pole or Somali deserves the Samaritan’s charity.

What the saying means, however, is that unless there is true charity within the family there can be none worthwhile beyond it.

A vicious circle: Without an address you can not apply for benefits, or in most cases, get a job
A vicious circle: Without an address you can not apply for benefits, or in most cases, get a job

And there is such a thing as a national family – of which ex-servicemen are particularly honoured members.

My friend got in touch with me because of my RightMinds blog, adding, however, that there might not be enough to write about without a lot of research; – ‘But I fear there will be many more such cases.’

Of course there will be many more such cases after the last decade of what servicemen have been through. And - exacerbating the consequences of combat stress - we are about to throw out a lot of soldiers under the recently announced redundancy schemes.

I say "redundancy schemes", but many soldiers will be leaving without a compensatory penny - and for the first time will be made to find somewhere for themselves to live.

Now, you may say that "so does everyone coming of age"; but in many cases we have "institutionalized" our servicemen to a great deal in order to get them to do what they do. In other words, we've made them stop thinking of themselves so that they'll keep going back and doing their duty on operations.

We should not underestimate this factor in the lives of men who have served, say, a dozen years or so.

Which is why it’s worth raising the issue here now – at least to see what sort of perception of a problem there is.

As for the research, I suspect that Mail Online readers may have some facts and figures...


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