A week in the life
“What does a typical week look like at Veterans Aid? Can you describe the average client?”
Difficult – and usually guaranteed to raise a smile or two in the Ops Room where few stories either surprise or shock. Statistics capture numbers and trends, both of which are important, but neither reveals the narratives that underlie our clients’ crises, or portray the diversity of issues presented.
What follows is a snapshot of activity during one week. Names have been changed, but nothing else!
Came in to VA’s Drop-in Centre following a casual conversation with a staff member. A former infantry soldier who served for 12 years, his addiction to games of chance saw more than £100k go out of his bank account in less than a month, leaving him with an overdraft and the dawning realisation that he had a problem. (Outcome: Immediate specialist help offered, but the gentleman stopped attending sessions and has not returned to VA).
An itinerant septuagenarian with more than 21 years service in two regiments, much of it operational. Subsequently drawn to Tibetan Buddhism and a life of austerity he lived (by choice) in caves and woods. Unable to sustain his peripatetic lifestyle after three bouts of hypothermia he called VA for help. (Outcome: Safe accommodation secured within days at VA’s sister charity in Scotland).
Came to VA’s Drop-in Centre straight from prison suffering from unintentional withdrawal from psychotropic medication. (He had been released without a prescription). Fearful and facing homelessness he was in acute distress. (Outcome: Reassured, medically stabilised and housed the same night in safe accommodation).
Presented with tales of heroism and horrific sights that his ‘Special Forces background’ prevented him from sharing. Blamed his problems on PTSD. Revealed after routine checks to be a genuine veteran who (“Walter Mitty” style) had greatly ‘embellished’ his short and uneventful service career. (Outcome: His real problems are still emerging but he’s making progress).
A former infantry soldier who failed to complete basic training, came to VA after a lengthy period of living ‘on the road’. A self-confessed burglar his response to ‘what he’d got’ for his crime was to name the items he’d stolen! (Outcome: Accommodation secured in Scotland with VA’s sister charity).
Had been living and working in Europe for 12 years owning and running bars. The good life came unravelled after his relationship broke down and the economic downturn ruined his business. He came to VA homeless and was found immediate accommodation. (Outcome: Immediate temporary accommodation secured pending resolution of his financial affairs).
And then there’s The Drug Addict, The Alcoholic, The Single Mum… and the one who looks JUST LIKE YOU…