VA Campaigns

New Belvedere House Hostel Campaign – the end of the beginning

For more than a year, VA’s flagship hostel, New Belvedere House, has been undergoing an upgrade and refurbishment. Raising the £8.2m required to fund this has been challenging, but already the investment is bearing fruit.

The NBH Project was a planned makeover driven by a combination of necessity and desire to see a successful model enhanced. At the beginning of 2016 Phase One was completed and the first 12 residents moved into shared flats in the hostel’s Old Rectory building. (See also: The new facility’s first official visitor was HRH The Duke of Edinburgh).

The fundraising campaign was kick-started by the IES Media Group’s Homeless Veterans Campaign, of which VA was a joint beneficiary. Further endorsement for the project came in the form of three LIBOR grants.

CEO Dr Hugh Milroy said, “Raising this money was a daunting prospect 12 months ago but we were committed to making it happen and our supporters have not let us down. This charity changes lives and although the Victoria Drop-in Centre is VA’s public face, its heart is New Belvedere House.

“Our vision for the hostel was part of the charity’s five year strategy and plan. We had to look at a project that enabled us to build on success without over-stretching us financially or diverting funds needed for delivery of ongoing, core business at our Drop-in Centre. We also wanted the impact to be minimal on those living in the hostel throughout the build.”

An average of £8.5k a year is spent on an NBH resident. Typically veterans stay 9.6 months before leaving to start independent lives. At this stage they are equipped with the skills required to look after themselves personally (via nutrition awareness , money management, CV writing, benefits advice) and financially (via skills training, education or work placement).

For everyone who ‘moves on’, clean, safe accommodation is secured; where necessary it is redecorated and new furniture is bought. Since the current hostel ‘New’ Belvedere House was opened (in 1973) , it has looked after 800 residents but, in a variety of ways and locations, the charity has been caring for veterans in crisis since 1932. “The faces and spaces have changed” said Dr Milroy, “but Churchill’s mantra of *Action this day has underpinned its work for 85 years.

“There have been ‘veterans in crisis’ since war-fighting began; but what we see, year in, year out, at Veterans Aid are men and women struggling with largely societal problems. The ex-servicemen and women who seek our help are homeless, hungry, unemployed, dealing with addictions, alcoholism and social isolation. They are not in trouble because of military service.”

Although the hostel rebuild is well advanced Veterans Aid is still fundraising – and still short of its total. “In some ways the last leg of this fundraising journey is the hardest,” said Dr Milroy. “Everyone thinks that the pressure is off, but it’s not!”

Anyone interested in supporting, donating to or learning more about VA’s New Belvedere House project should call 0207 592 7393 or write to funds1@veterans-aid.net.

July 2017: Onwards and upwards; a bird’s eye view of the new floor of VA’s New Belvedere House hostel as the final stage takes shape. Thanks to all the supporters who have helped us get this far – but we are still fundraising for this last phase: