In the U.K. today, there is an ongoing and silent war that many charities and organisations are attempting to combat – veterans who are homeless or faced with the challenges and risks of homelessness. The psychological impact of military combat and the trauma of war often has delayed manifestations for Veterans, which can ultimately lead to ex-servicemen and women sleeping on the streets, sofa-surfing or temporarily staying at hostels.

According to the No Homeless Veterans Campaign, which is backed by ex-army sergeant and Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes, many veterans may be slipping through the net each year and as a result, local authorities are failing to take account of veterans in their housing and homelessness planning and strategies.

Perhaps the most important questions when looking for solutions to homelessness amongst veterans is how, or why, do they become homeless. Though there is little evidence that supports the idea that military life and institutionalisation is a leading cause of veteran’s homelessness, many factors related to the armed forces can be attributed to the ongoing problems and links between homelessness and ex-servicemen/women: trauma of war, social isolation and alcohol addiction as a coping mechanism for veterans adjusting to civilian life. Some veterans find the transition from a successful military career to everyday family life and maintaining stable employment troublesome.

Though the characteristics and experiences of homeless veterans are largely like those of other homeless individuals, some notable differences are apparent. According to Sir Andrew Gregory, Chief Executive of SSAFA (the Armed Forces Charity), the issues surrounding veterans and homeless often stem from post-service struggles when adapting to civilian life. For example, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often considered a key factor in veterans experiencing homelessness.

Veterans suffering from PTSD often relieve the trauma of military combat through ongoing nightmares, flashbacks and hallucinations. Though help is readily available and there are a wealth of charities and organisations carrying out brilliant work to offer ex-servicemen and women the support they need, so many continue to suffer in silence. This may be a result of shame or a belief that seeking assistance may bring dishonour to their regiment and reveal what the veteran deems to be a weakness. Yet, experiencing PTSD is not a flaw and failing to receive the required support may lead to a spiralling-effect of issues, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and ultimately homelessness. Like the wider homeless population, a variety of factors and events may influence and precede homelessness.

Perhaps the first and most crucial step for veterans returning to civilian life is direct access to stable housing and living arrangements. By improving the availability and accessibility of housing and support for veterans, we can play our part in reducing the number of ex-servicemen and women who may find themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness.

If you or anybody you know are affected by the issues discussed within this article, please contact our partner organisation Creating Change Housing Management (CCHM) on 0333 366 1159. Their team of support specialists are always available to provide bespoke support to meet your needs.