Memorandum from Emmaus UK (3 November
General homelessness statistics for the UK show
consistently that 25% of rough sleepers are Ex-service personnel.
Our own experience in Emmaus, through our six
Communities, certainly corresponds with this:
Of 52 people who have taken part in an internal
survey of user profiles, 4% had been in the RAF, 12% in the Army,
and 6% in the Royal Navya total of 22% of those people
surveyed. A further 8% had been in the Territorial Army.
It is important to bear in mind that our survey
was undertaken purely voluntarily, and as such conveys the experiences
of only a certain amount of those people entering our Communities.
The results of this survey have, however, been consistent over
the 10 years Emmaus has been in the UK, and as such, represent
a true picture of the general profile of all the people who have
entered an Emmaus Community.
Although an MoD spokesman recently dismissed
these recent claims as anecdotal, as some 27,000 personnel leave
the forces each year, the numbers ending up on the street from
such a specific career background are grounds for concern.
It is most likely that one of the root causes
of such a high proportion of ex-service personnel ending up on
the street is the inability to adapt to civilian life. The elements
of strict discipline, a clear definition of rank and order, and
life within an enclosed and relatively secure environment combine
to create a lifestyle very different from that on "Civvy
Street". There are, of course, many other considerations
which need to be borne in mind as contributing factors to the
phenomenonthe various stresses and strains, both physical
and psychological, encountered within a fighting unitespecially
by veterans of conflict, can leave deep scars affecting an individual's
working and family life. By far the main cause of homelessness
is the breakdown in family life or personal family trauma, and
any factors that perpetuate this need to be addressed.
The re-integration of forces personnel into
mainstream society appears to be being addressed in parts, but
on what level? Various Forces initiativesthe Tri-services
Resettlement organisation and similar services provision are aimed
at helping individuals with integration through training and skills
programmes as well as career and job procurement advice. Yet it
is only recently, with the introduction of an RSU funded advice
centre at Catterick Garrison, that an attempt has been made to
stop people leaving the forces and becoming homeless. Homelessness
has deep and wide ranging root causes. Areas such as tenancy sustainment
and aspects of self-sufficiency need to be taken on board and
addressed prior to a person entering civilian life, and problems
which may arise for each individual need to be recognised and
Based on the statistics, 25% of the 1,600 people
sleeping rough on any given night of the year in the UK means
that up to 400 people will probably be ex-Service personnel. Whilst
blame cannot be apportioned to the Forces for the fact that these
people have ended up on the street, this number should be significant
enough to ensure serious research into the causes of this phenomenon,
and subsequent ways of addressing the problem. This should be
done in association with those organisations whose existence is
due to the people living on the street and in inadequate accommodation,
acknowledging the wealth of expertise which has arisen out of
Britain's homelessness industry.
Emmaus is a leading figure in British homelessness
provision, and a very large and effective movement world-wide.
Emmaus offers a home and work to those in need, within a safe,
familial environment. Each Companion (as residents are called)
has their own room, giving them independence, but live and work
as a community where each person is as important a part of daily
life as the next, and where life is a shared experiencesharing
meals and personal touches such as celebrating birthdays are essential
elements in ensuring that the Community is more than a mere hostel.
Every Community has its own revenue-generating
business in which all the Companions are expected to work a full
40-hour week. The core business is collecting, repairing, renovating
and reselling donated goods, with particular emphasis on furniture
and electrical white goods. The revenue generated from this, together
with accommodation receipts (Companions will normally be eligible
for Housing Benefit), ensure that all Communities will become
self-financing and not a continuing drain on statutory and charitable
The Communities work because they take people
out of the dependency cycle and give them a chance to help themselves.
The ideal is very simple: sign off primary benefit (Jobseeker's
Allowance or Income Support); accept the rule of no alcohol, drugs
or violence on the premises; agree to participate in Community
life and to work in the Community business. In exchange, a person
may stay in the Community as long as he/she wishes and receives
spending money of £31 (current) per week and £5 saved
for leaving. Three to six months is the average first stay but
some people stay for longer periods, which helps the stability
of the Community, whilst others will move on to other accommodation
or return to family. Many return for longer periods, but always
there is no restriction on length of stay.
There are currently Communities in Brighton,
Dover, Coventry, Mossley (East Manchester) and Cambridge, with
a further three Communities due to open within the next 12 months,
and around 17 groups committed to setting up Communities, from
all over the country.