A room with a view – £8m flagship veterans hostel takes shape.

Take away the prefix ‘youth’ from ‘hostel’ and the image conjured up is not usually an attractive one. Those who have spent time in temporary accommodation for the homeless describe noisy impersonal places where people down on their luck seek refuge only from the even bleaker prospect of living on the street.


A former client at Veterans Aid‘s ‘home’ (sic) for ex-servicemen described one he had spent time in as ‘reeking of marijuana, stinking of piss and noisy as hell’.

The £8.2m rescue and redevelopment of VA’s New Belvedere House is an investment in something that will rewrite the manual on ‘hostel living’. Gleaming state of the art training kitchens, computer suites, a professional standard gym/fitness centre, thoughtfully equipped study-bedrooms and public areas where the interplay of light, colour and space provoke impromptu smiles . . . complemented by a move-on block of semi-independent living units, the ‘new look’ New Belvedere House will be bigger, brighter and better.

The hostel enjoys a success rate of around 90% – lives that are turned around tend to stay on track. But that’s no accident. Veterans who are admitted with nothing leave with hope – a network of reliable friends, a training course or two under their belt, the prospect of a job and a new home. There are failures of course, but they are few and untypical.

Funding the build has been the biggest challenge in VA’s history – a huge ask for an organisation with no marketing department, employing just 25 people and until recently no in-house fundraising manager. Since the present hostel opened in the 1970s it has helped more than 700 homeless, or potentially homeless, veterans; it has given them hope, a reason for living and the tools with which to do it.

Each stage of the refurbishment has been followed by a sigh of relief and expressions of wonder, but the last part of the project is not a rebuild, it is an extension. The building is, literally. ‘going up’. The picture above shows a bird’s eye view of the planned expansion; in the months to come it will take shape leaving only interior spaces to be painted, furnished, equipped and occupied.

*The charity is still £1.5m short of the total needed to complete the build and still needs help to raise it. If you want to know more about how you can support this inspiration project please email Funds1@veterans-aid.net or read about the project on the VA website: www.veterans-aid.net

Independant platform for post-modern charity


From Angelina Jolie to David Cameron, the great and the good have stepped forward to support  the Independent/Evening Standard’s campaign for Homeless Veterans.In the run-up to Christmas it puts the spotlight on two charities; Veteran Aid and ABF The Soldiers Charity. London commuters on auto-pilot pick up their copy of the ES and, night after night, read about the hands-on work of the former and the grant-giving impact of the latter.

It isn’t the first ‘help our heroes’ campaign – but it is perhaps the most honest. This appeal looks at veterans in the round – not all soldiers, not all male, not all ‘heroes’; just people like us,  who have got into trouble.

10428488_878660315480044_2651896600302184623_nMaybe this approach will encourage members of the 4.6 million-strong ex-service community who didn’t think they were ‘worth it’ to ask for help at the first sign of meltdown?

Prevention is not only better than cure – it’s cheaper.

Veterans Aid doesn’t judge and its staff are never shocked. The charity really is the ‘A&E’ of the  ex-Service world.

I worked with and  alongside Britain’s Armed Forces in Bosnia, The Gulf, Kosovo, The Falklands, Afghanistan (and many other lively places) for many years. As an attached civilian or embedded journalist I shared many  experiences with soldiers, sailors and airmen. If I was in trouble now, and  able to access the help of organisations like Veterans Aid, I would count myself blessed.

This organisation is modern – post-modern! – pragmatic, immediate and  effective. It doesn’t pussyfoot around asking desperate people to fill-in forms or come back in a week’s time. It’s a place where people regularly find hope, humour and help.  So thanks to the organisations below for helping these charities to reach the people who need their help.


See Independent article (28/11/14)   by Chris Green HERE


11,000 mile taxi ride for Veterans charity

I’ve often thought I was  perhaps a tad borderline in the conformity stakes – but when I heard that three guys were taking an 11,000 mile cab ride to the capital of Mongolia I realised that  my eccentricities  were  strictly minor-league. Straight from university,  looking for adventure,  and accompanied only by a 16-year-old called Mildred who had nevertheless been round the block a few times,   adventurers Oliver, Olivier and Will  joined 400 other teams  leaving London on  Saturday, 19th July  to take part in the 2014 Mongol Rally. To be fair the 16-year-old is a London taxi – affectionately nicknamed Mildred – and purchased on eBay for less than £1000.