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 Centre 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!

‘The Gambler’

Came in to Veterans Aid’s Ops 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 he stopped attending sessions and has not returned to Veterans Aid).

‘The Monk’

An itinerant 70-year-old 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 Veterans Aid for help. (Outcome: Safe and appropriate accommodation secured within days by Veterans Aid).

‘The Ex-Offender’

Came to Veterans Aid’s Ops 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).

‘The Walt’

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).

‘The Expat’

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 Veterans Aid homeless. (Outcome: Immediate temporary accommodation was secured pending resolution of his financial problems).

‘The Single Mum’

She left the Navy after nine fulfilling years. Sadly due to her relationship problems she became a single mum of three. Though she was supporting her children and working full-time for agencies, her employment was temporary and she couldn’t secure a tenancy agreement. She was facing homelessness. (Outcome: Veterans Aid stepped in and acted as a guarantor for her rent. Her family is now settled in a home they love, and are being educated in great schools, for which she will always be grateful).

And then there’s The Drug Addict, The Alcoholic… and the one who looks JUST LIKE YOU…


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