AS THE UK military winds down its operations in Afghanistan and the MoD starts to focus on its next strategic review, here in Scotland we continue to address the challenge of helping veterans who face physical, mental or financial issues.
The most recent Scottish Government statistics, published in 2013, reveal there are around 1,000 ex-armed services people who were listed as homeless in Scotland. Because these figures are compiled through local authorities, based on data from housing accommodation applicants, it is likely that the true figure is rather higher as we know that many homeless veterans never approach their local council for help.
There are around 400 homeless veterans in the Greater Glasgow and Strathclyde area with those aged between 20 and 39, being the group most affected. As a charity helping provide accommodation for ex-military personnel we are building a 51-flat housing development in Glasgow’s Cranhill area. This will add to our existing developments in Edinburgh and Dundee. A key focus of the new facility is to help these younger veterans who are often struggling to make the transition into mainstream housing and civilian life.
There are a number of reasons for veteran homelessness including relationship breakdown, struggle to find post-military employment, discharge from prison or hospitals and financial difficulties leading to mortgage or rent arrears.
However, a common theme around all these issues is poor mental health that can affect those who have served in the military, particularly those who have experienced duty within conflict zones.
According to press stories last month, the MoD’s strategic review is being reportedly influenced by a growing reluctance within an increasingly multicultural Britain to see UK troops deployed on the ground in foreign operations. While the armed forces may therefore have a different role in future, it is important that we don’t lose sight of those who have served their country, including those who completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these veterans continue to need our support.
• Phil Cox is chief executive of Scottish Veterans Residences