lördag 20 februari 2010
How Britain looks after its brave boys
These homeless men sleeping out under the promenade at Brighton are all ex-soldiers of various ages. They have served in places like Northern Ireland, the Falklands, and the Gulf. Once they left the army they found it impossible to settle into civilian life and ended up homeless. They have a drink problem but clean up as best they can afterwards. They are probably "institutionalised".
A significant proportion of homeless men are ex-servicemen. The official attitude seems to be that they are no longer of use and can be discarded. I think the problem is that the sort of accommodation that would be right for them simply does not exist. I get the impression that they would not get on well in, for instance, a bed-sit flat, which is what they would probably get offered, after which they would be forgotten about as a solved case. These men need a structured environment, where ex-servicemen can live in a protected community, under firm direction
What might be done? In the seventeenth century, Chelsea Hospital was founded for just this purpose. Isn't there a need for similar institutions today? I have in mind large houses with 15 to 20 rooms and communal facilities such as a dining room, lounge, games and hobbies rooms, and a gymnasium run by a well-organised retired sergeant type who was kind, sympathetic but firm.
Residents in the kind of establishment I envisage would be expected if possible to help in the running of the establishment by taking turns with household tasks like cooking and cleaning, painting, decorating and household tasks. To judge from the way they conduct themselves, most of them would be well able to do such things as a product of their army training.
In such an environment, some of them at least might be able to give up their alcohol habits and possibly hold down regular work and become valuable members of their local communities.
This is really something that the government should take on as part of a duty of care to those who choose to risk their lives to defend the country, but if it will not, there is a need for a new charitable foundation. It would undoubtedly qualify for Royal patronage and enjoy huge public support.
Come on, you tabloids, speak up for our brave boys after their military usefulness is past.
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