Homelessness among some of the bravest people in the UK is a real issue, with hundreds of former service men and women now sleeping rough, stats compiled by charities suggest. 

Officially, it is hard to estimate a true total, as there are only two bodies in England which record the number of UK nationals who have served in the Armed Forces. 

According to The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), the number of UK nationals living on the streets of London alone put numbers into the hundreds. 

The Homeless Reduction Act, introduced last year, made local authorities record how many applications for statutory homelessness were from ex-Service households. 

In England between April and June 2018, 430 households were recorded as being ex-forces that were owed a new statutory homelessness duty.

Tragically, these figures do not mirror a true picture of veteran homelessness as, despite their service, many veterans are invisible. 

To solve this issue, and further understand the UK’s veteran population, veterans support charity The British Legion believe the next UK wide census in should include a record of whether someone has previously served. 

It believes this would be a huge step forward in understanding the demographics of the UK’s veteran population and therefore give a better idea of the sheer number of homeless soldiers. 

In fact, the ONS will collect information on the Armed Forces for the first time for the 2021 Census.

A spokeswoman from The Royal British Legion said: “Whilst there is no definitive evidence to link service life itself to homelessness, we know from experience that there are unique issues that veterans and their families may face finding housing.

“The adjustment to civilian life can be confusing enough for our community, but when you throw other life issues into the mix such as relationship breakdowns or financial problems, it can create further challenges.

“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.” 

While CHAIN’s annual report showed a decrease in the number of veterans on the streets last year, the charity's annual statistics for London showed a huge rise in the number of rough sleepers. 

Released last week, the research shows an increase of 18% in the capital with 24% new to the streets in the last year. 

Petra Salva, St Mungo’s Director of Rough Sleeping, Criminal Justice and Migrants Services, said: “After the numbers almost stabilised last year, it’s alarming to see another rise in rough sleeping of 18% in London this year, with a 24% increase of new people to the streets. This highlights the real challenge around prevention.

“These figures also highlight a rise in the number of people returning to rough sleeping after at least a year away from the streets. This shows the importance of getting the right long term accommodation and support in place for people who have slept rough in ensuring people can rebuild their lives away from the street for good. 

“Recent short term funding provided as part of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy has been welcome. However, it does not replace what has been lost in cuts to homelessness services over the last nine years. The Government must use this year’s spending review to properly restore funding and secure the future homelessness services, so as to not miss its target of ending rough sleeping by 2027.” 

In a statement to Daily Star Online, a spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Our veterans have played a vital role in keeping our country safe.

“No one, including veterans, should spend their lives on the streets, or without a home to call their own which is why we’re providing an estimated 2,600 more bed spaces and 750 additional specialist support staff this year alone.”

Source: Daily Star