London Mayor opens 'inspirational' Veterans Aid’s £8.2M residential facility
Veterans Aid’s New Belvedere House project shows the difference that investment can make in providing bespoke care to those who need it, says Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.
A four year, £8.2m project to create a flagship facility for veterans in crisis was unveiled last week by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who formally opened Veterans Aid's New Belvedere House.
Commenting on the opening the facility, the Mayor of London said, "It is completely unacceptable that anyone in London - including veterans of our armed services - should have to sleep rough. The refurbished New Belvedere House will help Veterans Aid continue their invaluable work helping to ensure no UK veteran needs to sleep rough in the capital, and I am pleased to be supporting their unique programme."
The project’s delivery followed four years of fundraising and a number of significant public grants - notably from the Chancellor, using LIBOR funds – also the GLA and the Independent/Evening Standard Homeless Veterans Campaign. Financial support was augmented by donation of 3,800 hours of voluntary labour by 750 Bloomberg employees.
Speaking directly to PoliticsHome, the Mayor said, "Veterans Aid are inspirational, I’ve been humbled today by seeing some of the work they do" and that "the project shows the difference that investment can make."
New Belvedere House, which is wholly owned and operated by Veterans Aid, now offers accommodation for 66 homeless, or imminently homeless, ex-servicemen in premises that make the designation ‘hostel’ inappropriate. The facility provides a physical environment that at last matches the quality of care and support that has accounted for its year on year 90% success rate.
New Belvedere House opened in 1973 and by mid-2018 it had provided accommodation for around 1,500 veterans who might otherwise have been homeless. When the redevelopment project was first mooted, in 2014, the building was 41-years-old. Its infrastructure was deteriorating and significant expenditure was required simply to halt further decline. Veterans Aid took the decision to make a virtue of necessity by extending, refurbishing and enhancing it.
Phase One of New Belvedere House was completed in early 2016 and the first 12 residents moved into the refurbished Old Rectory Annex. Their first official visitor was HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
The redevelopment was part of the charity’s five-year strategy and plan.
CEO of Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy said, "We already know that we’ve had a profound impact on reducing the numbers of UK veterans on the streets – particularly in London - and are breaking the cycles of dependency that keep them there. Our commitment is to making homelessness among veterans a thing of the past."
"Thanks to the vision and generosity of donors, large and small, we have been able to create a flagship facility. The completion of this project is a landmark in the Charity’s 86-year history. It is a building that has been designed around delivery of our highly effective Welfare to Wellbeing© process" continued Milroy.
An average of £9k a year is spent on an NBH resident. Typically, veterans stay 9 months before leaving to start independent lives. At this stage they are equipped with the skills required to look after themselves personally (via nutrition awareness, money management, CV writing, benefits advice) and financially (via skills training, education or work placement).
For everyone who ‘moves on’, clean, safe accommodation is secured; where necessary it is re-decorated and new furniture is bought. No resident leaves until staff are satisfied that the home he is preparing to move into is appropriate to his needs and sustainable.
When asked by PoliticsHome what aspects of the project he would seek to emulate across London, the Mayor pointed to the importance of bespoke care, saying, “It is realising no two people are the same and people have complex needs.”
He added, “If we invest [in individuals] it actually saves us money in the long term.”
The investment in New Belvedere House was made with a view to breaking the mould and creating a 21st Century facility of an unparalleled standard, every aspect of which would play a part in affirming safety, support and success. It was designed to create an uplifting environment that would complement the practical support on offer by presenting it alongside learning and fitness resources, in surroundings that encouraged relaxation, stimulation and socialisation.
“Raising the money to fund this project was a daunting prospect at the outset, but we were committed to making it happen and our supporters have not let us down. This charity changes lives and although the Victoria Operations Centre is VA’s public face, its heart is New Belvedere House” said Milroy.