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.