‘Once a soldier, always a soldier’: Ex military personnel revamp property for homeless veterans
A charity organisation established by former military personnel is working hard to revamp a property in Hartlepool to cater for homeless veterans.
The Brick by Brick project, led by former servicewoman Jaime Horton, is an ongoing scheme providing safe homes across the North East.
And most recently, the team have turned their attention to transforming a disused two-bedroom house on West View Road near the Headland into a home for a military family in need.
The property, which is part way through renovation, was donated by a woman from London with military connections who wanted to stay anonymous.
It’s already acquired a new roof, had the asbestos ripped out and benefited from completely new electrical rewiring.
A crowd funding appeal has been launched to complete the project, with the team estimating they need a further £10,000 to get the property to a liveable standard.
Jaime, 42, said such projects are vital due to the levels of homelessness among veterans.
During 2021, the team has dealt with 57 vulnerable people, many who have “catastrophic” and “complex” mental health problems.
“I can speak from personal experience” she explained. “I would have been left homeless when I left the force if it hadn’t been for my family members.”
Jaime said when she left in 2005, after 12 years of the service, the “system was failing veterans”.
“I left the force with a disability, having served for more than 10 years, so I should have been in the priority brand for rehoming, but I was left without a roof over my head.”
Since getting back on her feet, she’s been an integral member of Hartlepool’s large military community.
When she’s not helping to house homeless veterans, she’s working with other ex-military personnel at the Veteran’s Breakfast club, which boasts 147 members.
“I love the community we have” said Jaime. “Once a solider, always a soldier. It’s something you never lose. We all stand together, and try and support each other.
“Without that network, many veterans would fail dramatically.
“Even today, I’ve helped a 78-year-old veteran learn how to use his iPad so he can reconnect with us and his family who have moved out of town.”
She’s adamant that there still isn’t enough information or support for those leaving the force.
“A lot of people panic when they exit, and they don’t know who to turn to, because it’s not well signposted by the council.
“It’s not just about the accommodation, its about helping the individual adjust from being in the military to being part of everyday society.”
In the lead up to the town’s by-election, Labour candidate Paul Williams had pledged to create a veteran’s hub to centralise the services available for veterans.
Jaime is now calling on the successful Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer to match the pledge.
She’s hopeful given PM Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for the plans during his recent visit to the town.
Donations can also made at the Brick by Brick project page at www.gofundme.com