Portsmouth charity takes on sleeping rough challenge to shine a light on veterans homelessness
AN ARMY veteran whose charity is undertaking a gruelling fundraising challenge to shine a light on homelessness and mental health has called on the new prime minister to safeguard military personnel who have been ‘thrown to the wolves’.
Retired soldier Gary Weaving, founder of Eastney-based Forgotten Veterans UK, is leading a team of five hearty souls from the organisation who began their challenge of sleeping rough for four nights in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, last night.
The fundraisers, who will take on the challenge with ‘nothing but the shirts on their backs’, are taking on the campaign to highlight the plight of homeless veterans, who are left marooned when they come out of the service.
The team, who will rely on the warmth of strangers to donate everything from food and water, clothes, sleeping bags, toiletries, coats and shelter, have praised the support they have received from Portsmouth City Council, which is dedicated to helping veterans.
But Gary lobbed a grenade in the direction of other councils who do not yet offer the same support – with the passionate veteran insisting the only way to secure the future welfare of veterans is to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law. The covenant ensures those who have served in the military are treated fairly.
Speaking to The News, Gary said: ‘Well done to the council in Portsmouth but if they can do it then so can everyone else. The city has one of the largest contingents of veterans so if the council here can help veterans when they will leave the forces the others should follow suit.
‘All veterans take an oath to the Queen when they join the forces and are prepared to lose their lives.
‘But when they leave, many of them are vulnerable and have problems ranging from mental health issues, addiction to housing needs that are not being met. They have been thrown to the wolves.
‘There are many parents who will not let their children join the services until they have more help when they leave. I’m a fourth generation veteran but my son will not be joining up until things change.’
Forgotten Veterans will take their mission to the very top – with newly elected prime minister Boris Johnson next in the charity’s sights.
‘We are calling on the new prime minster to make the Armed Forces Covenant law,’ Gary said. ‘It needs to be a priority. It is the only way vulnerable veterans will get the help they need when they come out of the services.’
The challenge will finish next Tuesday.
The group will also be collecting money for Forgotten Veterans UK. To donate £1 text ‘VETERANSUPPORT’ to 70085.
For more details, see forgottenveteransuk.com