Civvy Street - not always what its cracked up to be!

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by PragmaticJen, Mar 27, 2006.

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  1. Janner's comment on the Norman thread prompted this....

    I remember reading an article that said that 30% of the homeless are ex service people. Some have been homeless for up to 10 years. and the majority of them are ex Army personnel. Sad statistics indeed...

    When asked, they said that this was sometimes due to the difficulty of settling down in Civilian life, particularly finding accommodation and employment, accompanied by a long-standing disconnection from civilian life and a place they can call home are contributory factors. This naturally can be exacerbated by a lack of transferable skills and even alcohol abuse among some of the personnel - with the paradox that some of the skills acquired in the Forces help sustain them on the streets....some even said they received no help or advice on accommodation when leaving the forces or in fact resettlement advice even though they had asked for it.

    From my experience as an Ed Wren... if you served under 3 years you were less likely to get any Resettlement advice. After 3 years service personnel were eligible for structured employment help for up to 6 mths before leaving. But you had to be a 'good Boy' to be eligible. They then have to wait a further two years for the full resettlement package to kick in. It gets complicated when we start talking about a less Honourable discharge! :evil:
     
  2. A few humbling stories... The RBL claims poverty every year around Remembrance Sunday yet have millions upon million invested doing feck all except earning interest.


    JAMES GALLAGHER, 57.
    "I'm from Dumbarton. I served in the RAF regiment from 1966 to 1975, then 15 Para and the French Foreign Legion from 1980 to 1990. I trained at RAF Hemswell, Lincoln, and when I joined the legion, I trained in the south of France. I saw action most recently in Bosnia, and before that Rwanda. I was working with the United Nations out there. I've seen action in Chad, Northern Ireland and a place called Djibouti on the east coast of Africa. When you get to 40 years old, you start to think about lots of things and wonder if the grass is greener on the other side. That's when I decided to leave the armed forces. My first feeling of leaving the army was like setting out on a new adventure. I was full of confidence to adapt to civilian life. But civilian folk don't have the same disciplines as a squaddie, dealing with diversity of the environment. No regiment in the world could prepare you for living in the East End of London. How I ended up homeless is a very broad question, but money and drink had a part to play."

    RICHARD COUSINS, 40.
    "I'm from Liverpool and joined the Royal Engineers when I was 18, some time around the early 1980s. I would say my childhood was happy. I always knew what I wanted to do. I joined the army cadets when I was in my teens. But I didn't fit in at school and was subjected to bullying. A friend told me about the army and we joined together. I'd always loved war movies and I had nothing to lose. I trained to be a soldier at Pirbright, Surrey, and left because I got an ankle injury and was medically discharged. I was very sad when I left the army. It was like leaving my brothers and I felt as if I'd let them down. After leaving, I started working on the funfair. I tried studying for a degree, but failed. I've been on the streets for over two-and-a half years. I have a son, but the missus doesn't want me around. I sometimes go to the St Martin's night shelter. I've chosen to remain on the streets. I get sickness benefit for depression, which was caused from leaving the forces. I hit the bottle big time and that's why I had a breakdown. I'm looking for somewhere to live and I'm saving the money from my sickness benefit to buy a house in Cornwall."

    MICHAEL HARRIS, 33.
    "I'm from Ghana originally. I joined the Royal Artillery in 1989 and left in 1994. I saw some action when I was in South Armagh, Northern Ireland. When I left the forces I felt good. I was looking forward to going into the unknown. I did jobs from security work to construction. I went travelling. But I ended up homeless because when I returned to England I had little money. I went to the council to get somewhere to live and was told that unless I was under 18 or over 65 I didn't stand much chance. I got in touch with Ex-Service Fellowship Centre in Victoria, London, and they offered me a room. The only other option was the streets."

    ANNA LANCASTER, 47.
    "I'm from Hertfordshire. I joined the Royal Navy in 1976, and left in 1998. When I was homeless [after leaving] I never ended up on the streets, but I got very close to it. I used up all my friends, and was running out of ideas. If it had gone on any longer, I'd be on the streets. When they [ex-services members] come back [from duty], homeless and not knowing where to go, they find it hard. Although there is information, it's the basic things, like your rights and how you can get help [that are lacking]. The paperwork involved, with a mental health problem, is too much and you need help. The Veterans Agency can help. It took me a long time to find this out and they have been very helpful to me."

    KEITH TYRER, 30 something.
    "I was born in Chelmsford, Essex. I joined the Royal Artillery. I trained at Colchester and Aldershot in 1992, and left the forces in 1996 because I was medically discharged. I really felt gutted about that. I saw action at the back end of the Gulf war in 1992, and I served in Bosnia and Kosovo, where I was shot. After discharge I travelled around and ended up on the streets. I had little money from ex-forces charities, such as SSAFA Forces Help. I ain't into settling down just yet."

    STEPHEN ANDERSON, 37.
    "I am from Birmingham. I had a very happy childhood. I remember playing with my Action Man, and my parents buying me an army uniform when I was a toddler. I was ever so proud. I trained at Kiwi Barracks and Bulford Barracks in Salisbury and joined the Devon & Dorset Regiment at the age of 18 in 1983. I left, aged 22, in 1988. I didn't see any action really, just some trouble with Greenpeace activists. I left the forces because I was medically discharged. After leaving the army, I went travelling across Europe. I found out about New Belvedere House from my local jobcentre."

    DAMIEN MASON, 22.
    "I was in the Parachute Regiment in Iraq when I was shot. A bullet took my right temple lobe away, and I've got shrapnel in my back. I went to a military rehabilitation centre. We did physiotherapy, group therapy, and occupational therapy. You had counselling sessions, but it was not like a civvy street counselling walk-in centre. They kept going on about anger all the time. 'Are you angry?' they kept asking. I was like: 'No, I don't want to see you any more.' At the end of the day, of course, I was angry and I felt they were trying to wind me up all the time. I got a bottle of whisky and a handwritten note from Prince Charles. No one from the government contacted me. I don't receive much counselling now. I've been to one or two sessions on the NHS, but they can't really see where I'm coming from. They don't get many people go there with gunshot wounds."

    ASA BARNES, 31.
    "I'm from Bexley Heath, south London. I joined the Grenadier Guards in 1992. I was trained at Pirbright, Surrey, and came out the same year. The reason I left the Guards so early was because I was kicked out for violence. I didn't want to leave . . . but there you go. After that I worked as a lift engineer and for a male escort agency. I ended up homeless after splitting up with my long-term girlfriend. I couldn't keep my dick in my trousers. I needed to be in London, because that's where the work was. Trouble was, I kept getting into lots of trouble. I've been in prison four times, all for violent offences There's lots of violence in my family. Many hostels won't take on violent cases. My family don't want to know me, but sometimes give me a bit of money or a meal here and there. We need to sort out this country. I mean, look at the homeless squaddie situation. You do all that bullshit to end up on the streets."

    TERRANCE DEMPSEY, 56.
    "I was born in Bolton. I joined the Scots Guards in 1971, aged 18, and got out on March 20, 1975. I joined the Guards because my parents were Scottish. I saw action on two tours of Northern Ireland. It felt right leaving the army as I didn't relish the idea of being stationed in Germany. When I got out I worked as an HGV driver and moved to Inverness to become part of a spiritual community. I worked with troubled kids for around 20 years. I visited my son, who was living in London, and he told me they were desperate for HGV drivers. I worked there for three years and busted my hand, which put me out of work. I also had a heart attack. I was in rented accommodation when the owner told me she was selling up. I had no money, but when she bought a new place she let me have a room. The tenants were drug addicts. They kept hassling me to join in with their parties, but when I did I got a beating. I was directed to Great Chapel Street shelter in Soho, where they referred me to the St Martin in the Field shelter. There, a woman from SSAFA Forces Help directed me to the Ex-Forces Fellowship Centre in Victoria. They gave me a room there and then."

    LARRY EVANS, 58.
    "I'm from Rhonda Valley in south Wales. I joined the Royal Artillery, but came out in 1965 because my services were no longer required, and I was discharged. I had real problems with leaving. I tried to be a soldier, but it didn't work. It wasn't really my cup of tea. I saw no action anywhere. I had no animosity towards being kicked out, but I did feel sad about leaving. I had been around the forces all through my childhood with my parents; my father served in the RAF. I was also victim to a lot of bullying at school. I ended up homeless from not paying the rent and kept getting evicted, because I drank all the money I earned, so I ended up on the streets and lived the life of soup kitchen runs and begging. I wear Airborne forces sweatshirts because it gives me a sense of security. When I was on the streets, the sight of a Parachute Regiment T-shirt would stop anyone giving me any hassle."

    BRIAN MORAN, 49.
    "I joined the Royal Marine Commandos in 1974. My mindset at the time was like the Commando comics: action, adventure, going to war. But it was just dribs and drabs. Life in the marines was 90% boredom, 10% terror. Around the age of 27-28, I was very disillusioned, so I decided that was it and I got out. When I left I still had the bootneck attitude from being inside the corps. I soon realised the outside world could not care less. People have a different mindset to a squaddie; they live life differently. Outside, it's dog eat dog. It took me a long time to adjust. I worked as a nightclub doorman and drank far too much, living the life of Riley. I also worked as a security adviser, but kept on pissing it up and lost the job. Got into more fights and ended up on remand for a few months. I slept in a graveyard with my two plastic bags. Went to the social services the next morning and they gave me a £5 note to get to London. I wandered around for months, sleeping in streets, alleyways, hotel car parks. I quite enjoyed it in a way. I learned a lot: the tricks of the trade, like how to keep your head down, how to act aggressively, how to get what you want."

    DALTON MILLER, 20.
    "I'm from Jamaica originally and joined the Royal Green Jackets in 2002. I trained at Catterick and left the army in March 2004. My reasons for leaving were because my services were no longer required and I was discharged from the army. I felt gutted about leaving. I didn't want to leave and I felt very cheated. I found out about New Belvedere House from a leaflet from a friend. I don't get on with my family and I had nowhere else to go." ERIC COLLYMORE, 44.
    "I joined the Royal Artillery Junior Leaders in 1976. My father was in the merchant navy so he understood about me joining up. My mother was not very happy, especially with the troubles in Northern Ireland. In 1982, I left the army after serving my time mostly in Germany and Northern Ireland. I didn't see much action. I was both happy and sad to leave. I ended up homeless because I was a gambler and had a good time on my credit cards. I lost it all, including my council flat. I didn't actually end up on the streets. I had a few sofas to sleep on. Sometimes it was best that I kept myself to myself when living at the hostel. The amount of fights that went on there was unbelievable. There were fights most nights."
    :(
     
  3. All very typical stories. The MOD just views people with problems as a cost that can be dumped.

    Many years ago one of my sailors a 3 badgemen was an alcoholic, I tried to get treatment for him but was dissuaded because all he would get would be a month or so drying out and the SNLR, and as he had a few years to go on his engagement it was actually better for him to not report him as, as long as he had a reasonable DO he wold be looked after by the service, once out he would just become another statistic, so it was best to try to keep him in as long as possible.

    The worst ff are those who get SNLR for mental problems because they get little or no support and then get dumped on the NHS which is in this area especially overloaded and depends far too much on voluntary care in the community.

    I think the charities do what they can, but for too many they just dissapear of the radar.

    Peter
     
  4. I currently work in the Welfare and Housing Division of very well known charity which has a poppy in its logo and all the afore mentioned problems come across my desk on a daily basis.

    As we all know our Service has promoted Home Ownership in the form of the Advance of Long Service Pay for much longer than the other Services. What I find very difficult to comprehend is the very shortsightedness of many Army personnel leaving, they come to us a few weeks before their discharge date asking for family housing. We have very limited housing stock and something like a 3 year waiting list.

    Are you good people aware that many local councils have added ex-Service personnel to the "At Risk" group of people in the community?
     
  5. Interesting. My wife is a Housing Advice Officer who frequently encounters Service personnel who present themselves as "homeless" and declare that they have no income. Such as pension, lump sum, resettlement grants, etc! They change their mind when they realise that she used to be a civvie in Centurion and is married to a matelot! The cry of "I've served my country" is often heard, as is the usual, incorrect and ignorant claim that "If I was black I'd have a house by now." Unfortunately, serving in the Forces does not elevate us above Police, Fire Services, Nurses, etc, but nor will it elevate us above those who have social problems and need housing for their own protection - and quite frequently a one-bed flat in Rowner is what they get, not a five bedroom mansion in Alverstoke!

    Not always their fault - in the Army (especially), they are not encouraged to enter the housing market but to remain with the Regiment/on camp. When it comes to going outside, their gratuity goes on immediate housing. With the changes to Pay this year (the massive rise in MQ charges) people will now be encouraged to look for housing in a civilian market. A lot of them don't realise that they are not given "points" for the local council houses as they do not have links to the area, despite having been posted there for over two years and having children at local schools/wife in local employment.

    She completed a course at Shelter recently, and ex-Service are one of their main customers - the awareness inside the Services is something which should be raised, as should the drive towards self-improvment using SLC/ELCs. In the USN Officer Corps, you are looked down upon if you are not actively studying for a degree, and I believe the Enlisted Men are also actively encouraged to study for personal improvement, rather than waiting for an EVT to come along! I know of people who simply could not be bothered to fill out the form for ELCs - free money!

    With regards to mental problems, the Services now use places like the Priory instead of their own institutions. A lot of the people who are not referred to these sources should place the blame at their DSR/DOs door - covering up for an alcoholic/drug user is appalling and dangerous.
     
  6. Slap me if this has been mentioned but I think I may be blind!

    When I was leaving the RN, I was informed that you are only eligible for resettlement etc if you had served 7yrs.

    My aunt works for a rehab in-house place; she always said how sad she would feel when an ex-service man/woman would come in. They claimed that there was too much pressure for them. That civvy street wouldn’t give them a chance in a decent job. They hopped from place to place in hopes for a chance, apparently 10 plus yrs with what ever qualifications they achieved wasn’t good enough, that it was the civil experience they actually needed.

    So, drink or drugs was an easier options to hide from all that.

    I was always told by members of my family who are serving or served that there were 3 options; move on, drinking or re-join. Unfortunately the drinking option became the quicker way for some.

    You can be sent on all types of courses but they also miss out on the biggest learning curve there is I suppose.

    Many ex-service members’ I know have had to go to the housing association for accommodation in shame. I know it sounds horrid but you could understand how they felt. Mostly had jobs but cut backs would always kick them out, temping didn’t last long and well, any money you got from the forces only went as far as a stone being thrown.

    I went along with 2 friends, who had been told to keep coming back each week for something or other. It shamed me when pregnant teenagers and dossers were being given homes when ex-service personal were given jack. I never understood that until I read this thread. I know I am young but is there not more the government could do to help in times like this? What I mean is when you leave; help you out in some sort of way. Not by money but there are other means?
     
  7. Big snag with people leaving the forces is the fact that its a cold and lonely place out here..

    If you still have parents alive then stick with them. Provided you are single .

    Married and Kids well hopefully you would have secured some sort of accomodation before leaving the forces.

    Anyway the Social Services at the moment are [in Scotland] dedicated to giving homeless people a roof to stay under.
    However you must usually have some sort of letter to prove that you have been evicted/displaced or just been made homeless. Arrive with your bags packed and present yourself!!
    Typical single person path would be a hostel room --you would be given housing benefit to pay for it, register with the Job centre for job seekers allowance and everything else available. Register with them anyway-they will pay your insurance stamp.
    Next step --as long as you are a model tenant would be allocation of a short term let flat and await council housing. All being paid for from allowances. You don't need a job!!
    When you do get council accomodation there is a furniture fund that supplies fixtures and fittings to you . You don't really want for anything.

    Married couples /partners usually follow the same route but may be split up
    for a while during the Hostel period. If you can get private accomodation then there is usually money available for deposits etc.

    All the time you are jobless the state will pay for your basic needs -you won't starve .

    Genuine Homeless are looked after!! Drifters----a bit more hassle !!
     
  8. I don't know what advice the RAN give those leaving but I do know that the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) really look after ex-service personnel. Unfortunately UK ex-service personnel don't qualify. I work in the Local RSL and we have three persons looking after their well being and most RSL's are the same.
     
  9. The real question is not whether the treatment is available, but what happens next, if all they get is a quick fix up so they seem 'normal' and the SNLR then things have changed little and I would suspect that nominating them for treatment has a good chance of them ending up homeless and on th e streets sooner rather than later. If they get proper treatment and them are accepted back into the fold then things have got better.


    Peter
     
  10. Psychiatric care is very much on the basis of "self-acknowledgment". Once the patient is able to give the right answers to the right questions, then there is very little that any support service can do (witness the problems the Prison Service has had recently with reoffenders). Mental illness has a stigma attached, and most people will want to return to "normal" as quickly as possible, even to the extent that they are not actually ready to return.

    Alcoholism in the Forces is almost a running joke - leaving runs at the Dolphin pub after an Alky Course, X Block/Z Ward in Haslar, etc. Some of the other courses have become a badge of honour (Triple A at Haslar (Anger, Anxiety, Assertiveness) as one example for those who have anger management problems). Until we accept across all levels (not just the hierarchy) that there is a problem, then nothing will be solved.
     
  11. It sounds as if perhaps not all that much has really changed and it is all to easy for the sailor with problems to move from being an asset to being a cost that can be disposed of.

    Peter
     
  12. The Ex-Service Housing Referral Agency based in London pull together many of the Ex-Forces Charities and Housing Providers. A recent survey by them found that many ex-Service personnel will not admit that they are ex-Forces when looking for accommodation because they feel that they will penalised.
    I agree that the Army ethos remaining on camp is still very strong - maybe the top brass need educating about the facts of life when it comes to leaving the Forces and housing matters.
     
  13. Considering the way the armed forces are often portrayed by parts of the media I am not surprised that ex servicemen can be reticent when asking for help. There is certainly room for improvement in this area, and it seems little has changed from my time when getting council housing for sailors was an uphill struggle.

    I think sometimes servicemen think civvy street is easy, well having been in it for a long time now it is not, and it needs work, my last flimsy said that if I had applied my self as much to being an officer as I applied myself to getting a job I would have made a good officer. I think those leaving need more help earlier in the leaving process, one needs to start working on a new life 12 months at least before leaving.

    Some resettlement stuff works well, but I think for those who have short service or fall foul of the military system just chucking them out with little help is a sure fire route to trouble.

    Peter
     
  14. Best advice? Use the Standard Learning Credits every single year. They may not cover the cost of a whole course, but they make a nice dent in the OU courses. It should be compulsory to be studying for higher qualifications (the USN Officers are marked down if they are not actively studying!) - these will help later. No point waiting for Resettlement Time for these courses, people need them under their belt at an early stage. The Education Officers should be far more vocal instead of relying on DCI/DINs that no-one reads! Even if it is as simple as gaining NVQs, GCSEs, etc, people should be actively encouraged to follow some form of further education.
     

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