* 6 June 2023 *
Part 3: In this last part of the series, CEO Janna Voloshin recounts her meetings with two veteran-specific support services in the UK, bringing her research tour to a close.
Our new V Centre Veteran Empowerment Program – to support veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless – is informed by a number of programs around Australia and overseas. Two of these programs are in the United Kingdom and I was very keen to find out more about them.
Belvedere House, based in London, and Erskine, in Scotland both specifically assist veterans and both have a long history.
I met with Wing Commander (Retd) Dr Hugh Milroy OBE, CEO of Veterans Aid, the UK’s leading frontline charity for veterans who are homeless, in crisis or socially excluded.
Dr Milroy served 17 years in the Royal Air Force, the final part of this being as the senior welfare and community specialist. He has been involved with veterans experiencing homelessness for nearly 30 years and his doctorate focused on the impact of military service on the lives of veterans and their families. His OBE, awarded in June 2011, was for his contribution to the wellbeing of veterans.
Veteran’s Aid was originally set up in 1932 by British Army Major’s wife, Gwendolen Huggins, to support ex-service men and women in crisis, after she saw them sleeping rough by the River Thames.
One aspect of their work is New Belvedere House which opened in 1973 and has helped turn around the lives of over a thousand homeless, socially isolated and vulnerable veterans.
A major redevelopment began in 2015, costing £8.2 million ($15 million) and the centre was officially reopened in September 2018.
It offers single-room accommodation for 66 veterans and the program is based on a ‘Welfare to Wellbeing’© model that guides veterans from dependence and social isolation towards empowerment and independence. Residents are supported to resolve health and financial problems, re-establish supportive links, deal with dependencies, learn new skills, continue their education, prepare for employment and become independent. Residents stay for an average of 9.5 months.
Our veterans in Australia face many of the same challenges as those in the UK and it was helpful to learn more about the practical support Veterans Aid provides. I particularly noted their focus on working towards full independence and the expectation of a commitment from the veteran when they begin the program.
Dr Milroy has been very generous with his advise to us in developing the model for The V Centre and I look forward to a lasting relationship between our organisations.
My next – and last – stop on the research tour was to visit Scottish veteran charity, Erskine, situated about 20km northwest of Glasgow in the west of Scotland.
Set up in 1916 to support Scottish veterans, Erskine has three care homes in Bishoption, Erskine and Edinburgh, and also at Bishopton is their Veterans Village which includes 44 cottages, an activity centre, five assisted living apartments and 24 transitional supported apartments.
I was particularly interested in their new transitional asupported partments known as David Boyle Court (shown below): these are for veterans either leaving the services or whose lives or transition plans have been disrupted. They provide accommodation and wraparound support services, and have access to other facilities at the Veterans Village, such as recreation, training and workshop facilities.
The fully-furnished accommodation offers a kitchen/living/dining room, and a bedroom and ensuite, and four of the apartments are fully accessible.
Communal areas include a cinema room and a room for group activities. The maximum term of stay is 2 years.
‘Ermac’ is the activity centre and day centre set up in the former estate’s stable block (pictured right).
It has played a very important part in the lives of many of the Veterans who need help to begin the next chapter of their lives, and offers social, recreational and training facilities as well as employment opportunities: these are provided through a partnership with ‘Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Co’ (SBMC), a social enterprise onsite with a factory that competes for business in both the private and public sectors.
Some veterans travel there from far away just to spend the day, meet their friends, do some activity or attend the wellness program.
Both Veterans Aid and Erskine are charities that rely on donations and fundraising to support their work. At Erskine, as well as income from sponsorship, fundraising and bequests (which contribute a significant portion of their funding), they also have the support of a large number of regular volunteers, some of whom are younger Veterans.