Drop-in service launched for veterans as Gosport charity's visitor numbers double

From left, engagement officer for The Solent Armed Forces Covenant Partnership Pete Duffill, The Mayor of Gosport Kathleen Jones, hub co-ordinator for FirstLight Trust Riah Bunce, veteran Nick Foot, hub assistant for FirstLight Trust Samantha Fry, programme manager for The Solent Armed Forces Covenant Partnership Caroline Hopper and  occupational therapist for NHS Transition, Intervention, Liaison Service Steve Alexander'Picture: Sarah Standing (270919-7581)
From left, engagement officer for The Solent Armed Forces Covenant Partnership Pete Duffill, The Mayor of Gosport Kathleen Jones, hub co-ordinator for FirstLight Trust Riah Bunce, veteran Nick Foot, hub assistant for FirstLight Trust Samantha Fry, programme manager for The Solent Armed Forces Covenant Partnership Caroline Hopper and occupational therapist for NHS Transition, Intervention, Liaison Service Steve Alexander'Picture: Sarah Standing (270919-7581)
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VETERANS who are struggling with debt, mental health issues and more will be able to benefit from a new drop-in service in Gosport.

FirstLight Trust, which has a cafe in Gosport High Street, has launched a monthly drop-in service, which will take place at the Discovery Centre further up the road.

The service is in response to the increased demand for veteran support in the town, with the charity claiming that its number of daily visitors has doubled in the past couple of years.

Held on the last Friday of every month, the drop-ins form part of a network of services that operate across the Solent region.

Riah Bunce, hub co-ordinator at FirstLight Trust, said: ‘Recently we’ve gone from having six or seven veterans coming in each day to 14 or 15.

‘It’s made things a lot busier and for veterans who need a quiet space, that puts them off coming to see us.

‘With the services being linked, we can get people the exact help they need in an environment that suits them – whether it’s housing debt, mental health issues, PTSD or anything else, they can be put in the right direction.’

Nick Foot, 61, from Gosport, spent five years in the army.

He says the growth of FirstLight Trust is a sign that as veterans’ issues are being taken more seriously, more people feel confident in coming forward with their problems.

‘When I came out of the army there was no support of this kind,’ he said.

‘Fortunately it took a while for my life to implode, which means that when it did, Riah and the team were here for me.

‘When it came to our inner demons, we were always told to suck it up – and were expected to do so.

‘Now that isn’t the case, and it’s fantastic to see the service growing.’

Through the Solent Armed Forces Covenant Partnership, charities and drop-in services in Gosport, Portsmouth, Lee-on-the-Solent, Southampton and Titchfield are pooling resources and giving veterans the best chance of recovery.

Programme manager Caroline Hopper said there is now ‘no wrong door’ for veterans to get the support they need.