Former soldier Caroline Devine has been helped by the Supported Tenancies Service

Member Article

Help on hand for homeless armed forces in Salford

Homeless support services in Salford have reported an increase in ex-service men and women needing their help.

Saturday, June 27 was Armed Forces Day when people around the UK gave thanks to those who have served and are still serving in the forces, but Salford’s Supported Tenancies Service has seen an increase in ex-military personnel falling on hard times.

The service, which is managed by housing association Salix Homes, provides support and advice for people in Salford facing homelessness or struggling to maintain their tenancy.

One former service woman who found herself homeless in Salford is Caroline Devine, who credits the Supported Tenancies Service for transforming her life.

Caroline, 55, joined the Army in 1978 at the age of 19. She was a Senior Private in the RAOC Regiment and served in Northern Ireland.

The mother-of-three left the Army in 1982 and eventually settled with her family in the Little Hulton area of Salford.

But after the breakdown of her marriage and suffering from depression she found herself homeless in 2006.

She said: “I had gone through a really bad couple of years and I had a breakdown. I got into rent arrears and I ended up losing my home.

“It was a very difficult time in my life, I’d gone from always having a roof over my head to not knowing where I was going to sleep at night. Thankfully I never actually slept on the streets, but I spent five years sofa surfing between my friends and family.”

Caroline, who suffers from arthritis, was eventually referred by her doctor to the Supported Tenancies Service, which helped find her a flat and get back on her feet. On Boxing Day 2011, she moved into a new home in Pendleton and begun to rebuild her life.

She added: “It was such a relief to finally have a place I could call home after all those years sofa surfing. When I moved in I had nothing, so the Supported Tenancies Service helped me get things like a bed, a cooker and a washer so I could get my life back on track.”

But it wasn’t the end of the journey for Caroline, because in September 2013 a fire broke out in her flat and she tragically lost everything.

“The fire completely gutted my flat and all I had left was the clothes I stood up in,” she said.

“I lost everything, photos, memories, everything I owned, but once again the Supported Tenancies Service was there for me and helped me get back on my feet. They got me a food parcel and helped me get grants to replace my possessions – they were just brilliant.”

Caroline was able to move back into her home three months later and is now feeling positive about the future.

She added: “I’m in a good place in my life now, but it doesn’t surprise me to hear that more and more ex-forces personnel are finding themselves in hard times like I was. When you get out of the army you just don’t know where to turn, and if it wasn’t for the Supported Tenancies Service in Salford who knows where I would be today – it would be a very different story.”

Nationally, statistics show that 1 in 10 homeless people have a military background.

Mike Wright, head of housing choice at Salix Homes, said: “Our Supported Tenancies Service helps people from all walks of life, who have for one reason or another fallen on hard times, but we have seen an increase in ex-armed forces personnel requiring our services in Salford.

“For many leaving the forces, it can be very difficult adjusting to civilian life when you have been used to such a regimented regime. It’s a travesty that men and women who have served their country find themselves in a homeless situation, but we are here to help people, like Caroline, get their lives back on track.

“As we prepare to mark Armed Forces Day this weekend, I would like to remind any ex-forces personnel in Salford that help and support is out there and to get in touch with the Supported Tenancies Service.”

You can contact Salix Homes Supported Tenancies Service on 0161 607 1620

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Hayley Collins .

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