January 19, 2016
“I met a homeless guy in London who told me he was a veteran and showed me his service record. I was appalled that he had risked his life to serve his country and yet now faced life on the streets.” Matthew Bell.
One in 10 rough sleepers has a military background; a self-build housing scheme is offering them accommodation and, with it, a fresh start
Danny Heavens, 28, still can’t believe that the bright, warm flat close to Bristol city centre is his home. Adjusting to stability after the six years of homelessness that followed a six-year stint in the army is going to be a challenge, admits the former Grenadier Guardsman.
For the last 12 months, Heavens has been one of 10 homeless veterans who has helped build the very homes they now live in. Pioneered by the charity Community Self Build Agency (CSBA), the initiative was the brainchild of its chair, Stella Clarke, whose brother Lord King served as defence secretary under Margaret Thatcher, and a former army major Ken Hames.
Heavens didn’t spend six years solely on the streets, he also stayed on friends’ sofas – known as sofa surfing – and lived in hostels. He says that adjusting to civilian life was a shock to the system, especially as he was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “In the army, you do and see things that no human being is meant to see or cope with and then you come out and you feel you can’t trust anyone.”
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