Terry, 52, was born in East London. He joined the Army Reserves when he was 18 and served for 24 years, including duty tours in Bosnia and Iraq. He became homeless in 2019 after 15 months in hospital with a rare form of blood cancer. Stoll helped him to find housing, where he still lives today.
After joining the air cadets as a teenager, I decided to join the army reserves – I had a lot of respect for the armed forces, and I liked outdoor pursuits and physically challenging work – and that’s exactly what the army gave me.
I had a lot of experiences in my time. My main role was as a medic, including in Bosnia and Iraq. In addition, I also worked in the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), the detention centre, and on patrol duties on a regular basis.
Being in the armed forces enhanced my confidence and purposefulness greatly. I learnt that we can always do more than we think we’re capable of and can push ourselves beyond our limits. And the camaraderie was the best memory of my time there. It was such a great feeling to know that when there was a challenging task or something you didn’t know how to do, someone was always there to help out – and vice versa. It was very satisfying to do the same for others. Some of the people I worked with are still some of my closest friends today.
In 2018 I was admitted to hospital for 15 months. I had stage-4 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer that caused severe health issues, including having to have half of my gut removed, and developing sepsis throughout my body. I had numerous other complications requiring many operations and some time in intensive care. I was unable to eat food for most of my time in hospital.
It was a miracle that I survived – but my challenges didn’t stop there. Because I had been renting before I was admitted to hospital, I lost my property – so when I was discharged from the hospital, I became homeless. Even though a social worker at the hospital had tried to get me housing, the local authority didn’t help. They were told I was a veteran, and that I was in very bad shape – but still, I ended up going straight from hospital to a homeless shelter.
I was so ill that I was only 65kg, walking with a cane, breathless just moving across the room, and barely able to eat. The hostel staff were amazing and did everything they could for me, but I needed a stable home where I could get better and rebuild my life.
Luckily, I was put in touch with Stoll. They helped me with housing straight away. I finally had a clean, functional, well-maintained place to call home. I’m still there, and I frequently catch-up with neighbours who’ve had similar experiences, and who support each other. We garden together, give each other advice, or share stories over a cup of tea.
I’m so grateful for the support Stoll gave me. My life is good now. I still have many health issues, but I’m always looking forward to the future and keep active in the community. I volunteer at the Science Museum and with the local cadets, I am very active in the shooting community, I have a part time job as a contact supervisor, and I am planning to launch a home-based business.
I know local councils are stretched, but we need to be doing more to help veterans. Every local council should be proactively trying to find homeless veterans and help them into housing, as per the Armed Forces Covenant. And whenever someone comes to them for help to get out of homelessness – they should be asking whether they are a veteran. Without that happening, veterans will not get the support that they are owed and more people like me will just fall through the net – and veterans deserve better than that.