Veterans Aid (VA) was established in 1932 (designated originally as EFC – The Embankment Fellowship Centre) as a direct response to the homelessness caused by poverty and unemployment among the ex-service community in London.
It was founded by Mrs Gwen Huggins whose husband was Adjutant of The Royal Hospital Chelsea from 1932-35. Deeply moved by the sight of men who had served their country sleeping on the capital’s streets and along the Thames Embankment, she decided to do something practical to remedy it.
Eighty-five years later Veterans Aid still delivers against that pledge; its core business is still ‘homelessness among the ex-military community’ but its reach and impact is now worldwide. Its aim is no longer just to ‘address homelessness and its consequence’ but, by timely intervention, to prevent it . . . and prevent it recurring.
It achieves this by:
- examining and addressing the causes of homelessness.
- acting immediately to address it (no genuine homeless veteran seeking VA’s help is returned to the street; he/she is housed immediately, in temporary accommodation until more permanent arrangements can be made).
- crafting a bespoke, collaborative programme for each individual seeking aid with a view to sustain an independent and rewarding life after ‘graduation’.
The charity’s expertise in the sector is considerable and referenced internationally – within and beyond the veterans’ world. It’s recognition that homeless is an effect as well as a cause has illustrated the futility of the ‘quick fix’ in dealing with the kinds of life crisis that leads individuals to homelessness.
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