Samantha our star volunteer from the South Coast did an amazing Wing Walk to raise funds for us a while ago. Inspired to do something please get in touch.
REFLECTIONS OF 5 YEARS AS CEO OF HELP 4 HOMELESS VETERANS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
October 2015 aged 60 contemplating early retirement having opted for redundancy after 18 years with RFEA assisting hundreds of service leavers into work, I thought I’ve done my bit, I’ve made a difference, stand-down.
Kevin Hartley and Tom Wood thought otherwise and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse asking me to become the first CEO of Help 4 Homeless Veterans on 1st November 2015.
I thought, I’ll give it a go, it’s a new challenge rekindling my enthusiasm. I know Veterans, perhaps I can make a difference to some more lives. Well I think I have done that.
After 5 years in post, the charity has supported nearly 300 more veterans (600 since 2010) some living in dire circumstances. We regularly pay for emergency B & B to get veterans off the streets. Longer term we have provided fully furnished homes, paid rents/bonds, bought new beds to sleep on (some for the first time in a long time), furniture, cookers, fridges, right down to KFS. Also through a link with BFBS provided TVs, some TV licences for veterans to help with their mental well-being; we have taken veterans food shopping, some who hadn’t eaten for days.
On 10th September we received The Queens Award for Voluntary Service (The MBE for Groups). The highest award any charity can receive and formal recognition of just how far we have come, something I am extremely proud of being a major part of. All those volunteers who have contributed to our work should also be equally proud of this fantastic achievement being one of just two charities in the County to gain this recognition this year. This was our second Royal award, outstanding in anyone’s book! Our work was even mentioned in The House of Commons recently highlighting our contribution to a housing minister by my MP.
We can go no further in terms of public recognition by awards, but we won’t be resting on our laurels I can assure you!
We can and we will continue to develop new ways to help the most vulnerable veterans. Before I finally step down as CEO, I hope to open a drop-in centre shop in Barnsley our home.
Over the past 5 years at H4HV we have kept our overheads low enabling us to better ride out the current fund-raising difficulties all charities are facing in these unprecedented times.
My salary has been low averaging £11.7k p.a. recently increased by our Chair, but money was never the driving force of me taking the role. I strongly believe all charity CEOs and senior staff shouldn’t receive massive salaries (ie: more than an MP perhaps?) especially those military ones run by retired senior officers already drawing a comfortable pension – the clue is in the word CHARITY!
Since leaving the RAF after 24 years’ service in 1996, Veterans charitable support has been my vocation for the following 24 years working for RAFA, RFEA, MCVC and H4HV. I feel that this, my final posting, as that is how I still view my working life, is the one that enables me to do the most good of all the roles I have held, both paid and voluntary over the past 50 years, by helping the most vulnerable veterans quickly without fuss. By providing that help we have not just changed lives but have saved lives too through the charity’s rapid interventions making a real difference.
When I finally stand-down I can hold my head up high knowing I achieved that. A number of veterans have wept with relief when we have given them a helping hand, but one message received more than any other summarizes how important the work of our charity is and he is not the only one who has indicated this state of mind when we stepped in:
I owe H4HV a debt of gratitude, if it wasn’t for your help, I would still be homeless, and possibly would have ended my life with everything that has happened to me
I want to publicaly thank Tom and Jean Wood who have become firm friends, and Kevin Hartley for putting their trust in me and giving me this position to lead such a fantastic small but highly effective team. I hope you feel your decision was vindicated. Finally, a special thankyou to John Healy our Chair – my mentor since I was lucky enough to recruit him.
It is a privilege to be the CEO of Help 4 Homeless Veterans making a real difference to fellow veterans whilst at their most vulnerable. My only regret is that there is a need for charities like ours in the first place.
HELP 4 HOMELESS VETERANS gets mentioned in The House of Commons today
Today I spoke in Parliament to raise with the Government the importance of ensuring no veteran, no hero, be homeless in Great Britain. The Minister and I both commended the efforts of the fantastic
, led by Rother Valley constituent, Steven Bentham-Bates. The charity which operates across South Yorkshire has recently received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. I hope they will be reassured by the Government’s commitment that armed forces will receive priority treatment from local authorities across the country, when it comes to housing and fulfilling their housing needs.
HELP 4 HOMELESS VETERANS CHARITY APPOINTS A NEW AMBASSADOR –
AMBER GUYMER-HOSKIN FORMER ARMY MEDIC
We are delighted to announce that Amber has very kindly offered to become an Ambassador for our charity from today 14th July 2020.
Amber has not only walked the walk but now talks the talk about Homelessness. She speaks from experience and since she turned to us in 2017 she has been our unofficial ambassador telling her story of how she coped with her homelessness whilst caring for her son Brandon to various media outlets to spread the message.
She has spoken to Andy Kershaw at BBC Radio Sheffield; The Huffington Post for The Sun and gave permission for us to tell her journey with us on our latest Charity Flyers. She also supported us on our stands at Armed Forces Day whilst living in South Yorkshire. Amber is about to be filmed for a documentary about Veterans and PTSD and how homelessness affected her.
Hers is a compelling tale of how she has turned her life around and I am sharing a few of her own words below:
I was on my last legs at the time and just felt exhausted and that I had nowhere else to turn. It was a simple google search which led me to Help 4 Homeless Veterans and it was a huge relief when they said they’d be able to help me.
They quickly managed to organise a one-bedroom bungalow for the both of us. We felt safe with a roof over our heads and it helped to have some order in our lives. Help 4 Homeless Veterans is based in Yorkshire and they had access to social housing, which they sublet to veterans at cost. They offer assistance to veterans all over the country and acted really quickly. It was a huge relief for me. I finally felt safe and stable for the first time in a long time. It was far away from home, which is Suffolk, but I wasn’t bothered as I had a home.
Finally, I felt able to get my life back on track. It took me a year to properly adjust to things when I had the house and to know what I really wanted. At the time I couldn’t work as I had childcare commitments, so I had a lot of time to try a figure things out in my head.
At times I did struggle and kept on thinking that we’d be out on the streets again. It took me a year to get over this and having the house definitely helped me with my transition. Like most veterans, I’m not sure if I will very properly transition but this was a huge stepping stone to becoming a ‘civilian’.
I moved into my own house in Suffolk last year and have just launched a business running boot camps while I complete my fitness diploma returning the bungalow to the charity.
Amber’s story is a genuine success for her and Brandon and also for our charity. This is why we exist, to assist vulnerable veterans when they are at their lowest point, giving them a hand-up, not a hand-out. Those that take advantage of a second chance, will, just like our new Ambassador rebuild their lives.
Welcome Aboard Madam Ambassador!
It was announced on 2nd June 2020 that Help 4 Homeless Veterans Charity was one of only two in South Yorkshire to be given this prestigious award this year.
This is the MBE equivalent for charities, no higher award is available.
This represents the amazing work carried out over a number of years of volunteers past and present enabling the charity staff to support almost 600 veterans facing homelessness to date.
Be aware that due to the lockdown many landlords and B and Bs are not operating right now which stops us being able to assist many veterans by booking B & B. The Government has told all local authorities they must help all homeless people during the current crisis so your first stop for assistance right now must be the local council homeless department.
Notwithstanding this fact, we are already helping twice as many veterans as normal so contact us and we will see how best to advise and assist you.
Following our initial delight last year at being told the charity would receive £50k of the MODs grant of £91k to SCR from Mayor ex-Army Officer Dan Jarvis to help homeless veterans around South Yorkshire as reported widely around the region:
Subsequently, after discussions, we could not agree to accept the terms of the offer which would have meant us spending the whole £50k offered on one person’s wage for one year to employ a business development officer to tell us how to expand our charity.
This doesn’t sit comfortably with our ethos of low overheads ensuring most of the money donated to us is spent on the veterans, not large salaries and others. overheads.
Our charity is more than capable of managing its own growth and we believe the money in question would have done far more good being spent by helping homeless veterans directly.
We even countered their idea with one of allowing us to use the money to buy an old house for us to refurbish to create a South Yorkshire hostel-type unit we could manage that would be sustainable long term benefiting even more veterans.
We here at the charity are disappointed that we could not come to an agreement with the SCR office on the best use of that grant, but we continue to help veterans needing our specialist help without any of the MOD money that was distributed for that purpose due to the constraints on how to spend it that has caused this conflict for us.
We need to inform the public our charity did not accept any of the £91k. Otherwise, it could affect our chances of securing future financial support from elsewhere when those considering helping us carry out their due diligence and see it reported we got that money, when in fact we couldn’t accept it with the strings attached as it goes against the ethos of our charity of low overheads and spending money raised on helping the homeless veterans themselves.
Since being formed in Barnsley in 2012 the charity has helped around 500 homeless veterans, including partners and some children. We raise our own funds and don’t just talk the talk, we do what it says on our tin ie: Help Homeless Veterans not just in Barnsley and Doncaster, but throughout South Yorkshire and the rest of England and Wales rapidly effectively without fuss.
We genuinely hope that the 4 South Yorkshire Councils through their SY Covenant Group who will share out the whole £91k make good use of it and actually provide additional help to vulnerable veterans who approach them for assistance as charities like ours are already carrying a significant burden of providing help for the veterans who quite often run into difficulties when approaching local authorities having to deal with homeless people from all areas of society, not just veterans of HM Forces.
Thank you as always to those people and groups who support our charity enabling us to react quickly to requests for help.
THE CHARITY WILL BE OFFLINE FROM LATER TODAY 23RD DECEMBER UNTIL 30TH DECEMBER. IF YOU NEED ADVICE DURING THIS PERIOD CONTACT THE VETERANS GATEWAY WHICH HAS 24/7 STAFFING.
THEIR PHONE NUMBER IS 0808 802 12 12
OTHER SOURCES OF ADVICE ARE AS FOLLOWS
BUT NOTE THEY WILL HAVE RESTRICTED OPENING TIMES DURING THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD