The Royal British Legion has issued a call to arms to help the Armed Forces community access housing support as soon as possible when they are adjusting to civilian life…

Not everyone struggles with the transition and, for many, difficulties with housing might not occur for many years after Service.

Issues often arise due to unforeseen circumstances such as relationship breakdowns or financial complications however, the transient nature of Service life, confusion over how to access support services, and often a reticence to ask for help, can cause a unique set of challenges for the Armed Forces community.

It is hoped that early intervention support will help prevent Service Leavers and Veterans from experiencing further difficulties that could lead to them sofa surfing or, in some cases, rough sleeping.

Antony Baines, Director of Operations for The Royal British Legion, said the sooner members of the Armed Forces community get in touch, the better placed the charity is to help.

“Through our experience we know that some Service Leavers, Veterans and their families find housing issues confusing and at times overwhelming. In some extreme situations we have seen individuals who have left it until they are in a desperate state, with no other option but to rough sleep, before they have asked for help.

“The adjustment to civilian life can be confusing enough but when you throw other life issues into the mix such as relationship breakdowns or financial problems, it creates quite a lot of challenges for them to face. We want to ensure the Armed Forces community knows that we are there for them throughout their lives and that the sooner they approach us for support, the better.

“The help is there, whether it’s guidance over housing applications, or if you’re at risk of homelessness. We can help with a range of housing issues and we work with our national network to support on an individual basis.”

Housing-related services offered by The Royal British Legion include:

  • Advice on managing monthly outgoings and budgets; debt; understanding the housing market;
  • Financial/goods assistance including rent in advance; deposits or deposit guarantee bonds; associated fees (e.g. reference fees);
  • Assistance with social or Local Authority housing applications;
  • Signposting to other charities and organisations which provide housing

In the last 12 months alone, The Legion has spent more than £1,324,500 nationally on 1,494 individual grants for deposits, removals and rent in advance for Service leavers and veterans. The money raised during the annual Poppy Appeal also helps to fund a variety of housing-related charities and organisations across the country through its external grants programme.

Retired Royal Navy Petty Officer, Chris Purcell, a Veteran of the Falklands conflict and the Gulf War, backed The Legion’s call to the Service community. The now 57-year-old from Portsmouth found himself living on the streets for three months in the 1990s after the breakdown of his second marriage.

“If you are considering leaving the Armed Forces you need to start thinking ahead and planning for the future,” said Chris who now raises funds for the Poppy Appeal in a bid to say ‘thank you’ to the Legion for its support. “Don’t wait until it’s too late – get help now. The support is there but you need to consider your options months beforehand. Don’t leave it to the last minute and hope for the best.

“The same goes for Veterans. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I became homeless I just wasn’t aware of the support I could receive. I think a part of me was also possibly too proud to ask for that support, but times have changed. If you need to talk you can pick up the phone and ask. If you need information you can look on the internet.”

The Royal British Legion supports serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families. If you need help or assistance, call our Contact Centre helpline on 0808 802 8080 from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week (calls are free from UK landlines and main mobile networks) for all enquiries. You can also visit the Legion website.