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Ed Tytherleigh: How Local Authorities Can Help Reduce Veterans’ Homelessness

Ed Tytherleigh, Chief Executive of Stoll and co-chair of the Cobseo Housing Cluster, recently spoke at the national Local Government Association Conference on reducing Veterans’ homelessness to zero and why this is a realistic and worthwhile target. Here’s what Ed had to say:

Cobseo is the umbrella body for Veterans’ charities in the UK and the Housing Cluster is the group which strives to co-ordinate the approach to housing Veterans more effectively.  Whilst Cobseo is clear in its mission to reduce veterans’ homelessness to as close to zero as possible, I want to emphasise that Local Authorities and housing associations can be a substantial part of this eminently achievable mission.

The two reasons why reducing Veterans’ homelessness to zero is achievable:

1. Because the numbers of homeless Veterans are not as great as often portrayed in the media. Our Cluster commissioned the most comprehensive piece of research ever carried out into Veterans homelessness and asked every Local Authority,  every homeless charity,  every Veterans charity, every Housing Association about the numbers of homeless Veterans there are and we are confident in asserting that in recent years there have been around 300 to 400 homeless Veterans rough sleeping in any given year and a larger number, probably around 3,000 to 4,000 who have an urgent housing need because they have nowhere to go, sleeping in a car or on the sofa with family and friends.  But when you think that 2.5million people currently qualify as a Veteran in this country, reducing to 1.2million once the National Service generation pass away, you can see that Veterans are actually under-represented in homelessness statistics.

2. The other reason why ending Veterans homelessness is achievable is that Veterans are better provided for in the UK. There are 4,688 bed spaces for homeless Veterans on any given night (not all vacant of course) and there are also enhanced services around mental health, addiction, debt, grants and much more which Veterans charities can offer and can take the pressure off statutory services.

However, there is much that Local Authorities can do and in March 2018 we launched our Call to Action at the House of Lords around Veterans homelessness, focusing on three areas – all of which Local Authorities can help with.

First – Transition

There are still Service personnel leaving the Forces without a clear pathway to accommodation. Cobseo is still pushing for the MoD to deliver a more co-ordinated approach to the minority of Service Leavers who need help to find somewhere to live.  In the meantime there is the Homeless Reduction Act and like many organisations, the MoD has a Duty to Refer. We do encourage Local Authorities, especially those in Garrison areas, to be proactive and liaise with the Transition Teams so we can support the minority who do not have a place to live into accommodation.

Second – Identifying Veterans and Signposting Support

Most Veterans will identify as having Served when asked.  Helping them is very straight forward as the Cluster funds a specialist housing advice offer through the Veterans Gateway. So LAs need to get better at identifying Veterans and channelling them through to the correct support. A campaign will be launched in September, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust, to highlight the needs of Veterans to Local Authorities. Consultancy time will also be offered whereby Local Authorities can receive in person briefings and advice on how best to support Veterans within their community.

Third – Resources

This is not just about money and can also be through revenue funding for support services for Veterans – something that is currently lacking. It can also be through more creative solutions, such as ring-fencing accommodation, or giving greater priority to Veterans in allocations policies, or simply through leadership by working with staff and local stakeholders in how you might apply the Covenant to work for Veterans in housing need.