New home for Veterans Aid
December 8, 2017
Veterans Aid is better known for finding homes for veterans than seeking accommodation for itself, but on 11th December, after 12 years in Buckingham Palace Road, the charity is relocating. Its new Head Office/Operations Centre will be at 27 Victoria Square, SW1W 0RB, just yards away from its old premises. Number 27 is the latest in a series of properties that have provided a base for the charity’s activities during its 85-year-history.
The charity’s first premises opened in 1932 at 59a Belvedere Road. It was offered on a three-month let – at a cost of just £1. Since then Veterans Aid has had several homes, all within a short distance of the Embankment where its founder saw so many homeless ex-servicemen sleeping during the economic hardship that followed WW1. Indeed, VA was originally known as EFC (The Embankment Fellowship Centre).
CEO Dr Hugh Milroy said, “Eighty-five years later, men and women are still to be found sleeping on the capital’s streets, but happily in 21st Century Britain, very few of them are veterans.
“VA is strategically placed at the Victoria transport hub because so many homeless people are drawn to London. Invariably some of them are veterans. Early contact and extensive networking enable us to prevent, or halt, the process that leads to homelessness. Very few of those we help go back to street life and our recidivism rate is extremely low.
“The lease on our old HQ and Drop-in Centre had expired, but in making a virtue of necessity we have managed to secure premises that are larger, more fit for purposes and welcoming. Clients will have more privacy and staff a better working environment.”
“Other than the day of the move we will be open for ‘business as usual’ and I hope that all our partners, supporters and service users will spread the word about VA’s ‘new home’.”
Although Veterans Aid’s HQ and Operations Centre is located at the heart of Westminster its reach and impact is nationwide – and frequently international. (Veterans Aid has dealt with ex-servicemen and women from 67 countries and dealt with settlement issues on behalf of 611 individuals).
Technology, extensive networking and a light touch enables the charity to respond rapidly to calls for help, wherever they originate.
Unencumbered by the need to support specific facilities with unpredictable demand for occupancy VA buys in help at point of need. “We also take this approach to facilitating accommodation and employment,” said Dr. Milroy. “Not everyone wants to live and work in London; they may have ended up here by default but many would fare better in areas where they have connections to friends and family. There is plenty of capacity and we are regularly contacted by housing associations and accommodation providers seeking to fill spaces.
“Our HQ and Ops Centre is hub; a powerhouse of expertise with extensive connectivity. Sometimes its staff play a role in getting vulnerable veterans back from overseas, but when calls come from other parts of the country their focus may be on preventing them from making a costly and fruitless journey to the capital.”
The new HQ and Ops Centre will continue to welcome ex-servicemen and women in crisis regardless of age, ethnicity, rank, gender, orientation or length of service. It will continue to offer immediate, practical support, to vulnerable and socially isolated members of the veterans’ community.
Back in 1937 the charity’s typical ‘spend’ to “restore health and confidence, train and obtain employment” was £6 6s 0d (the equivalent of £385 today). In 2016 the average amount invested in training was £582.
“The figures change,” says Dr Milroy, “but the ethos of providing a hand up rather than a handout has been constant.”
1. Homeless veterans, Embankment, 1930s.
2. Natalia Dabrowska, VA’s Head of Administration & Company Secretary, with David Dunning, Project Manager.