Plan for veterans’ home to help struggling ex-soldiers in Sunderland

Graham Hall with Phil Thompson from Norcare, who is trying to open a centre to help former veterans who have nowhere to live.
Graham Hall with Phil Thompson from Norcare, who is trying to open a centre to help former veterans who have nowhere to live.
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WAR veterans could soon have their first home in Sunderland.

Efforts are under way to raise the £140,000 needed to renovate the property into accommodation for former soldiers struggling to cope with life outside the military.

Similar centres operate in Newcastle and Gateshead, but Sunderland has long been identified as an area in desperate need of a home for veterans in need.

Now, bosses from Norcare – a charity that helps vulnerable ex-servicemen and women – have found a property at The Elms in Ashbrooke, which they hope will become the city’s veterans’ centre.

Up to 8,580 Wearside military personnel returning from the frontline are likely to find themselves homeless, the Echo revealed last month.

While 3,380 will end up dependent on drink or drugs, often leading to them having no place to live.

Phil Thompson, a manager from Norcare, said the organisation was in the process of submitting an application to the Armed Forces Covenant in a bid to secure the funding needed to go ahead with the plans.

He said: “We had hoped to get somewhere opened in Sunderland earlier than this as we recognised there was a need for it in the city.

“This kind of place is not just about improving the health and well being of these people, it is about getting them on the first step to independent living.”

Former military personnel from the city who find themselves homeless are having to use the Newcastle and Gateshead centres.

Mr Thompson, who served for 31 years in the Army, said: “We have about six people waiting for every bed space in these particular centres.”

Many veterans find themselves unable to cope with day-to-day living once they leave the forces and, with the British Army recruiting 28 per cent of its manpower from the North East, the region is left to cope with thousands who no longer feel they have a place in society.

Graham Hall, who set up the Sunderland Armed Forces Network, to support those returning to civvy street, believes a centre of this type is “critical” to the city.

He added: “We have 26,000 veterans in the city so this type of facility is very much needed. Norcare presents outreach in Sunderland from its Newcastle centre.

“This type of development, which we hope will be supported by the wider Sunderland community, also gives the private sector the opportunity to show their support. This project will not go through without the funding in place and this is something Norcare are working very hard to secure.”

Anyone who thinks they can help sponsor the project is asked to contact sunderlandafn@o2.co.uk.