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Despite the Armed Forces Covenant an army of heroes are still homeless; TRAGIC EX-SQUADDIE DARREN WAS FAR FROM ALONE; Government statistics reveal shocking plight of thousands of Scots veterans.

Byline: STEPHEN STEWART s.stewart@dailyrecord.co.uk

THOUSANDS of Scots veterans face sleeping rough on our streets - and they're more likely to end up homeless than their former comrades in other parts of the UK.

That's the warning from campaigners after we told yesterday how former soldier Darren Greenfield, who fell on tough times after serving his country, died on the streets of Edinburgh.

News of the 47-year-old's death last month has sparked a wave of outrage over the way our nation's ex-servicemen and women are treated.

In the last three years, more than 2600 former soldiers have registered as homeless in Scotland.

This stark figure should horrify a nation which has made a formal promise in the Armed Forces Covenant that those who serve or have served are treated fairly.

In 2016-17, 799 ex-forces heroes declared themselves homeless, according to the latest Scottish Government figures.

But that could be the tip of the iceberg, because many former soldiers are too proud to register as homeless and get by on the streets or sleeping on friends' couches.

Susie Hamilton of Scottish Veterans Residences, who have been tackling homelessness among former soldiers since 1910, said: "While Scottish Government figures give us an overview of the issue, we believe they probably underestimate the extent of the problem.

"We know from our own experiences in running this charity that many veterans are reluctant to ask for help when facing homelessness and are therefore less likely to apply to a local authority for housing.

"At SVR, the number we have been helping has risen each year since 2012. Last year, we helped well over 250 veterans.

"Many of the issues faced by veterans are similar to those of other people who find themselves in the terrible situation of being without a settled home - it affects mental health and can lead to a spiral of depression and despair.

"For ex-servicepeople this can be compounded by a lack of social connections if they have moved around a lot during their career, the effect that long deployments can have on family life and sometimes problems due to trauma experienced in service.

"Some veterans feel that the armed forces are more like family than just a job, so making the transition to civilian life again can be very difficult."

Susie added: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Mr Greenfield.

"We hope that his untimely passing will have the positive effect of raising public awareness of the difficult times that can fall upon some of the men and women who have served our country's armed forces and their need for our support."

SVR house ex-servicemen and women in residences in Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow.

Scottish Government statistics show there were 799 homeless applications in 2016-17 where the main applicant applied directly from armed services accommodation or the application included a household member formerly in the armed services. In 2015-16, there were 889 applications from homeless veterans and 923 the year before.

Walter Hamilton, Scottish co-ordinator of homelessness charity Soldiers Off The Street, said more needs to be done urgently to help homeless veterans, especially those who are living rough.

He said: "They leave the services and get forgotten about. Once they leave the Army, they should be followed up and seen every six months to see how they are doing."

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "No one should have to sleep rough in 21st-century Scotland, yet every day we are reminded that far too many people in Scotland are enduring the human tragedy of homelessness - and some are paying for it with their lives.

"Rough sleeping, whilst the most visible form of homelessness, is just the tip of the iceberg, with untold thousands who sofa surf with friends or family."

Alison McCrorie, Shelter Scotland's veterans outreach worker, has published research on the growing problem of military veterans and homelessness.

She wrote: "Studies show that veterans are more prone to homelessness than non-veterans and are 10 per cent more likely to become homeless in Scotland than in England."

More than 2000 Scottish servicemen and women are estimated to leave the armed forces every year.

Charity representatives say anecdotal evidence suggests they are more likely to become unsettled because they are demobbed south of the Border rather than close to home.

Many veterans struggle to cope with the psychological traumas of post-traumatic stress disorder, which can lead to a downward spiral of family break-up, addiction, alcohol abuse and eventually homelessness.

Veterans minister Keith Brown said: "Veterans found to be homeless are legally entitled to housing - but for those with more complex needs, housing alone may not be enough.

"We are working with partner agencies and local authorities to make rough sleeping a thing of the past and our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group are considering other concrete actions we can take to reach people."

The UK Government said they provide "extensive help to veterans and their families", which includes funding the Veterans' Gateway support service.

Promise we have made to soldiers THE Armed Forces Covenant, published by the UK Government in 2011, promises to make sure that people in the forces community aren't disadvantaged because of their service.

The document is described as "an expression of the moral obligation that the Government and the nation owe to those who serve, or have served, in our armed forces, and to their families".

The section on housing says: "Where serving personnel are entitled to publicly provided accommodation, it should be of good quality, affordable and suitably located. They should have priority status in applying for Governmentsponsored affordable housing schemes, and service leavers should retain this status for a period after discharge."

Even prior to the covenant, the MOD said that governments had implemented measures aimed at strengthening the position of veterans who were seeking to access housing.

CAPTION(S):

HELPING Susie Hamilton

NCERN Graeme Brown

SAD LOSS Darren Greenfield, who served with the Royal Tank Regiment, died on the streets of Edinburgh

VISIBLE PROBLEM A rough sleeper in Glasgow. Picture: Tony Nicoletti
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 17, 2018
Words:1007
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