Ahead of the Homelessness Reduction Act, Veterans Aid shows it is at the forefront on preventing homelessness
A charity with a unique formula for keeping veterans off the streets put its system to the test recently with the help of some Army chefs.
CEO of Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy said, “The forthcoming Homelessness Reduction Act will place new duties on local authorities to prevent homelessness, but at VA we are already in the vanguard. We have long been committed to preventing and addressing rough sleeping and incipient homelessness, but what we also deliver are the sustainable solutions that prevent it recurring.”
In the first of what will be a series of regular monthly visits, a team from the Royal Logistic Corps turned out to help residents at the charity’s New Belvedere House hostel learn culinary ‘survival skills’ with a difference, in its new state-of-the-art training kitchen.
“Through this partnership we are addressing one basic element of ‘survival’ – the sourcing, preparation and provision of healthy, affordable meals,” added Dr Milroy. “We have always enjoyed a close relationship with the RLC and when they learned about our plans for the hostel the GSM, WO1 AJ ‘Vern’ Stokes and WO1 Marsden, came to me with a proposal. Seeing it come together like this is wonderful. Anyone can provide a meal; that’s a handout. What we provide is something more enduring. Equipping veterans with the skills to cook for themselves is a true hand up.”
Three RLC Chefs, attached to 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards from HQ London District, travelled to the Stepney hostel where they delivered a bespoke cookery course for residents. The first four veteran ‘students’ to take part – Simon Christie (RA), Clive Spencer and Ryan Mahoney (Household Cavalry) and David Cadet (PWRR) – declared the day ‘a fantastic success’.
The chefs were joined by WO1 Damien Marsden and Captain Jade Binskin-Barnes from London District, who were given a guided tour of the newly refurbished accommodation. WO1 Marsden said, “It was great to see the smiles on the veterans faces, watching them being taught how to cook what they wanted to cook, being taught basic food hygiene and cooking techniques . . and I think they’ve had a bit of fun doing it!”
New Belvedere House, which is presently undergoing an £8m+ redevelopment and refurbishment, provides temporary accommodation for up to 66 ex-servicemen who have either been homeless or faced the prospect of homelessness.
Dr Milroy said, “VA’s commitment to retaining and enhancing the facility, which has been in constant use since 1973, has been widely applauded and in 2017 the project received a grant of £1.6m - what we believe to be the largest amount given by the GLA to any homelessness prevention organisation.
“This investment was seen as an endorsement of the highly successful Welfare to Wellbeing model that we operate at New Belvedere House. The training kitchen is at its heart, but the completed development will feature an IT suite, gymnasium and therapy rooms. Typically, formerly homeless veterans stay nine and a half months and a consistent 90 percent remain suitably accommodated and independent six months later.”
WO1 Marsden said, “The whole facility is superb, and we are delighted to be involved. The cookery programme will be driven by what VA and the veterans want to get out of it.”