Here are 24 reasons to back our homeless veterans charity appeal

Matthew Champion@matthewchampion
Wednesday 17 December 2014 18:40

This Christmas the Independent, Independent on Sunday, i, the Evening Standard, London Live and have launched our biggest charity appeal ever.

We're asking for donations to two charities, ABF the Soldiers’ Charity and Veterans Aid, to help give armed forces veterans who have fallen on hard times a helping hand - making sure they're not on the streets and have a roof over their heads.

You can find out more about our appeal here, while if you'd like to donate - and any donation, however big or small, is very gratefully received - you can do so here.

Here are a couple of dozen reasons why you should get behind our campaign:

How the money helps

The University of York and Stoll Housing looked at data from 16 local authorities in England, four in Scotland and two in Wales between December 2013 and November 2014 in relation to grants given to homeless veterans, and the tangible difference it made. Here are a selection of their case studies, interspersed with charts put together from the report.


A 28-year-old veteran received a £1,300 grant to clear rent arrears after he was invalided from the Rifles regiment. Previously unemployed and homeless and with growing physical and mental health issues, he was relocated to Alabaré House in Gloucester and now hopes to find work and accommodation for his pregnant partner and himself.



An 85-year-old veteran of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers was given a £200 grant to help him remain in his own home.


A soldier, 34, who had been medically discharged after 15 years of service was granted £750 towards essential household goods. He had recently divorced from his wife and had moved into unfurnished accommodation, and the grant meant his children were able to stay over when they visited.



An 87-year-old widower and former serviceman in the South Wales Borderers was given a grant of £1,000 that allowed him to pay for replacement windows and stay in his home.


A 30-year-old veteran of the Queen's Dragoon Guards received £460 to clear council tax and utility bill debts when he suddenly lost his job due to the closure of the company. He used the grant to support himself while renewing HGV licences in order to find work again.


A 94-year-old widower, born during the First World War who served as a Gunner throughout the Second World War, was given care home top-up fees amounting to £1,014.



A 96-year-old former prisoner of war in eastern Germany faced homelessness when presented with a bill for substantial work to his flat in a housing complex the absentee landlord had allowed to deteriorate. He received a grant of £1,000 to allow him to stay in his home.


A 54-year-old former lance corporal and his wife, neither of whom can work due to health problems, were given £500 towards rent arrears. They are trying to move to a smaller home to avoid paying the spare room subsidy (otherwise known as the bedroom tax).


A former soldier, originally from Malawi, who was medically discharged received a grant of £850 towards essential household goods. This allowed him and his pregnant wife to move into rented accommodation.

In these cases, individual grants were awarded by ABF The Soldiers' Charity or the Royal British Legion. Beneficiaries do not receive the cash directly, rather payments are made by case workers' charities on their behalf.

Our existing backers

A lot of people have come out in support of the charity appeal already. Here's who we have on our side:


Prince William - you might know him as the father of the adorable Prince George - is backing our campaign.

"We can all do something small but meaningful to give these anonymous heroes a helping hand, give them hope and put them on the right road to recovery."


Country duo Ward Thomas are releasing an a cappella version of In The Bleak Midwinter for Christmas, and half the proceeds are going to our appeal (the other half is going to a German charity).

Lizzy Ward Thomas, who sings with twin sister Catherine, said: "It breaks our heart to know that people who suffered and fought in wars for their countries should struggle and fall on hard times when they are home."


Johnson Beharry, the first living soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in more than three decades, is behind our appeal.

"People are affected in different ways and over time you don't know how you are going to be affected.

"Well done to the people that are supporting it."


Simon Weston, a veteran of the Falklands War, is backing the Christmas charity campaign.

"Having a home gives you the opportunity to gain your own self-respect and to keep your dignity. Having your own bedroom, having your own things hanging up being able to go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea – the basic things in life, but very important."


You might not be that enamoured with them, but our political leaders are firmly behind the campaign.

David Cameron said our two charities do "vital work", Ed Miliband said that veterans "like everyone, sometimes need help", and Nick Clegg said "it's so important that, as a country, we are there for them when they need us most".


And finally, Angelina Jolie is with us too.

As we spend the holidays with our families in our homes, and are able to give presents to our children, we should remember we owe this experience to the freedoms we enjoy, and to the men and women who served to protect us and secure our way of life.

This holiday season many of them will be without a home, without food on the table, unable to buy toys for their children. We should do everything we can to show them our respect and gratitude.

In their own words


Former soldier Ashley Rosser was living in a tent in the countryside when he finally made his call to Veterans Aid. Within 24 hours he had a roof over his head in a hostel for veterans in east London.

"Many people when they come in here are very defensive after living on the streets. Some are going through withdrawal. But here they can learn to be themselves again. They realise it’s just like being back in barracks," Ashley said.

We're trying to enhance and expand the hostel, so it can house up to 70 veterans at any one time, with a gym, training centres and a music room.


Dave Henson was captain of Britain's team at this year's Invictus Games, a Paralympic-style event for injured service personnel organised by Prince Harry.

In the wake of his injury - he lost both his legs by stepping on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011 - Captain Henson received grants from ABF The Soldiers' Charity, including payment for a sofa bed in his parents' house, which meant he could live downstairs.

"People don't really think about these things, but they are so necessary in a life where you've got altered mobility," he said.

Captain Henson added: "People look at servicemen and women and think they are big tough guys and girls who go off and fight in wars - that's fine, we're comfortable with that," he says.

"But when you come back you're thrust into this big wide world where things don't work the same - there's not the discipline that you're used to and it's extremely difficult to come to terms with. Being in an environment where what people say isn't always what they mean was quite weird."


Former soldier Mark McKillion, 42, survived jumping from Westminster Bridge when he decided the only way to end the experience of living on the streets was to end his life.

He said support from Veterans Aid in the wake of his attempted suicide had restored his faith in humanity.


Russ Kyle, 35, struggled with cocaine addiction since leaving the armed forces. He currently lives in the purpose-built Belrock House outside of Glasgow, which serves as a temporary home for veterans who may have fallen on hard times.

Belrock cost £6.8million, £2.2million of which came from the local housing association. The rest was from charitable donations, including a substantial sum from ABF The Soldiers' Charity.

"Once you are in here, you simply can't just wallow in your own shit," Russ said.

"You get on with things. I am just looking forward to leading a normal life. You know, just going to the supermarket. Things like that."


Keith Cooper, 51, served with the Territorial Army for ten years. When he lost his job at a call centre last Christmas he faced homelessness in a matter of months.

He found a temporary home in Avondale House in Newcastle, a collection of 34 one-bedroom, self-contained flats for veterans facing life on the streets. Last year Avondale received a grant from ABF The Soldiers' Charity.

"I thought that because I was in the reserves, a place like this wouldn't entertain me. But, thank God, I was wrong.


Former soldier Michael Crossan, 51, found shelter at the New Belvedere House a few years ago while homeless and struggling with alcoholism. Several years on and his paintings have formed the centrepiece of public exhibitions by Turner Prize-nominated artists.

"We've all been through emotional and physical hell and survived. It was suddenly real. It was there - our artwork, in this amazing gallery. I thought, 'It just shows what can be achieved when someone gives you a helping hand.' It was one of the best nights of my life."

If you would like to read more here about the campaign, you can do so here.

And if you would like to donate, you can do so here.

More: [Why you should support our Christmas charity appeal, in three charts]17