Inside the unlikely nerve-centre fighting against veteran homelessness.
A stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace’s back garden, in a neighbourhood dominated by big business and the hectic hustle of Victoria Station, the offices of Veterans Aid are in a small terraced house down a quiet mews.
Veterans Aid CEO, Dr Hugh Milroy OBE, known affectionately as the Wing Commander by his colleagues, welcomes The Big Issue. Inside, it is clean, bright, nondescript. But do not be fooled. This place is the heart of a revolutionary quest to prevent homelessness among former members of the armed services and to break the cycle of homelessness for anyone who has already slipped through the net.
Veterans Aid is causing a stir in the homelessness sector. It advocates swift and decisive action – run by the small team in its operations room here – offering immediate rest and recuperation as well as shelter for any ex-service people, before targeting the specific emotional, physical, psychological and financial needs of each individual.
Over the course of a morning, we talk with Milroy about homelessness prevention strategies and observe the charity’s operations room in action as it responds to requests from former service personnel facing homelessness and enacts the welfare-to-wellbeing model developed over decades by Milroy.
“I’m not saying we have got a total answer but we’ve got a working answer,” he says. Milroy glances at the photograph of Winston Churchill on the bookshelf adjacent to his desk. “This picture is to remind me every day of his wartime phrase: ‘action this day’. Our aim? Prevent, prevent, prevent!”
‘Still at war: The Battle for peace of mind back home’ is a series of articles in this week’s Big Issue examining help for veterans as we approach this year’s Armistace remembrance. As always, you can pick up our current issue any any back issue on The Big Issue Shop.
The above article by Adrian Lobb first published on bigissue.com in Nov, 2018.