No Homeless Veterans: A Roadmap to End Veteran Homelessness
A major new study, launched on January 24th at the Houses of Parliament, presents an evidence-informed ‘Roadmap’ to end Veteran homelessness in the UK. This study was developed by the COBSEO (the Confederation of Service Charities) Housing cluster, working with The Riverside Group Limited and the University of York, with funding from the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).
The Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan aims to make the UK the best place in the world to be a Veteran by 2028, and pledges to end Veteran rough sleeping by 2024. To support this, the Government is currently funding Op FORTITUDE, a new central referral pathway for (potentially) homeless Veterans, and a £7.2 million Reducing Veteran Homelessness Programme to support Veteran homelessness accommodation support services. However, the research shows that ending Veteran homelessness in the long term needs additional changes, starting from the day individuals join up, through career, and beyond transition.
The report therefore considers the experiences of Service personnel, Service leavers (at the point of discharge from Service), and Veterans.
The research involved three main components:
- International Literature Review: A comprehensive review of relevant international research literature was undertaken to identify the key milestones in a Service person’s career and transition journey, and document the evidence of ‘What works’ in responding to the accommodation and support needs of Service and ex-Service Personnel.
- In-depth qualitative interviews with Service personnel (n=15) and Veterans (n=31) exploring their experiences of housing, resettlement, and transition, including experiences of homelessness.
- Stakeholder interviews were undertaken with Service personnel involved in welfare, resettlement, and transition support services (n=9); and stakeholders from agencies supporting Veterans with housing issues, including Veteran charities, Veteran community groups, specialist Veteran housing/supported accommodation, local authorities, housing associations and key representative bodies/associations in both the Veteran and housing sector (n=40).
A Roadmap to End Veteran Homelessness
Based on the research findings, the roadmap identifies key actions needed to address issues facing Serving personnel and Veterans with housing. It is based on the transition journey developed by FiMT and Future Agenda (2021)  that provides a visual representation of eight key ‘stages’ of transition.
Joining: Our evidence identified adverse pre-Service experiences that can influence future housing and homelessness pathways, including mental health and lack of family support that can leave individuals vulnerable when they leave Service. We recommend the identification of welfare needs at the point of joining, that can be used to ensure that Service life enhances future potential for all personnel.
Serving: The MOD provides support for home ownership, but affordability remains an issue for many personnel. Personnel wanted more help establishing savings for the future, and more tailored housing-related information and advice. Addressing ongoing needs was also identified as an important element in supporting all personnel to achieve their post-Service life aspirations.
Preparing: Personnel recognised the importance of employment focus during formal resettlement, but also wanted more specific housing information and advice, particularly those who had lived in military accommodation. Some personnel face a housing cliff-edge and more support was needed to help individuals realise independence, including named single points of contact to prompt and help with applications and financial advice.
Threshold: The moment of discharge is critical for future housing pathways. Many of those most in need will not have experienced the ‘preparing’ stage, nor very much of the serving stage either, and are at risk of homelessness. At the same time, many others will face exceptionally high transition costs leaving them vulnerable to housing exclusion. There was a high degree of support for significant resource allocation to ensure all Service personnel have secure and sustainable accommodation for 12 months post-discharge. A broad consensus also emerged for a guaranteed time-limited housing support scheme.
Confronting: The evidence showed that sustaining tenancies and ensuring problems are dealt with quickly can be important in preventing homelessness once individuals have left Service. However, preventative services in the UK need further development, as does provision for the most enduring and chronic experiences of Veteran homelessness.
Integrating: People were confused about where to access help over time, and experienced difficulties navigating services. The data identified a need for preventative services to avoid homelessness alongside clear strategies and targeted resources to respond to rough sleeping. The evidence highlighted lack of consistency across regions and Veteran homelessness provision could not always meet the needs of those who might want to settle in a particular place to aid transition, but were unable to do so because of a lack of available provision.
Settling: By this stage, homelessness might arise for any number of non-Service-related reasons. Many Veterans find support accidentally and there are limited formal routes in welfare services to identify Veterans at-risk of homelessness. The Veteran charitable sector provides a critical role in catching people if they fall but those organisations need appropriate funding and support to ensure they are sustainable.
Landing: Given earlier interventions Veterans at risk should be in a better position to navigate systems at this stage and many respondents were in a position to support other Veterans negotiating transition. These are the individuals whose experiences would be valued by those still in the serving and preparing stages of their housing journey.
For a more detailed version of the above image, a brief of the report can be accessed here.
Realising the Roadmap
Individually, the actions in the roadmap may improve opportunities and reduce risk for some personnel but there are some overarching issues that need to be addressed for the roadmap’s aspirations to be fully realised. These include:
- addressing inconsistent application of policy and guidance across Units and Chain of Command to ensure all Service personnel benefit from reforms;
- ensuring that welfare and life skills are seen as part of the ‘offer’ so that personnel receive the right support at the right time, delivered by the most appropriate people;
- opening up opportunities for civilian expertise and lived experience to play a greater role in life skills and education for Serving personnel;
- ensuring that there is a single homelessness strategy for Veterans that is relevant for the whole of the UK drawing on best practice, with a specialist team to ensure delivery;
- greater emphasis on joint-working across Veteran charities, the OVA and the MOD to deliver Covenant commitments, support best practice, shared learning and shared.
Thank you to Dr Lisa O’Malley and Dr Deborah Quilgars for conducting this research and writing this spotlight article. For more information about this work, please contact Dr Lisa O’Malley, University of York - [email protected]
Links to the full report can be found here.
 Office for Veteran Affairs (2022) Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan: 2022 to 2024, London : Gov.UK.
 Future Agenda (2021). Lifting our Sights: The transition journey – Ethnographic Report. [Online].
Available at: https://www.fimt-rc.org/article/20210301-lifting-our-sights-the-transition-journey-ethnographic-report