Lee Buss-Blair, Director of Operations and Group Veteran Lead – Riverside introduces Op Fortitude.
Everyone’s journey into and out of homelessness is particular to them. However, specific populations such as veterans tend toward specific needs requiring specific responses.
- Veterans may find it hard to engage with and trust professionals who have no military background and haven’t shared or have an awareness of the unique experiences, circumstances and situations that members of the armed forces encounter.
- Veterans can find themselves excluded from mainstream service provision because their behaviour does not align with the ‘normal’ client base.
- Veterans wait longer on average than others before asking for help.
I’ve worked in the homelessness sector for a long time, and I know that a good quality supported housing scheme can work just as effectively with veterans as they can with anyone else. The common thread across both groups is trauma and the impact of trauma, and the effective ways of working with trauma are the same irrespective of the cause.
The issue is us veterans. That’s right, it’s not you its us! We are spectacularly good at excluding ourselves from mainstream services in the, unfounded, belief that because you haven’t served then you couldn’t understand us so not in a position to help us. It isn’t true, but having avoided help I desperately needed for over a decade, I know first hand how that mindset feels, and how difficult it is to move beyond it.
Having veteran specific services is important to enabling us to get over that barrier to engagement, and prevent veterans from reaching a point of acute crisis before they are prepared to accept support, as was the case with me.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Rough Sleeping Strategy revealed that 6% of UK Nationals who responded to the National Rough Sleeping Questionnaire in 2020 said they had served in the Armed Forces, 2% in London. This data, when compared to the 2021 Census data of 3.8% national and 1.4% in London, indicates that veterans are overrepresented in the rough sleeping population. We also know from the 2021 Census data that veterans are overrepresented in communal living facilities.
However, we know from the 2021 Census data that veterans are underrepresented in the supported housing sector.
Homeless Link, through its London Plus Programme, ran a webinar to introduce Op Fortitude, at which Lee Buss-Blair spkoe. The webinar was recorded and is open to view by anyone across the country (not just London).