A housing and training centre for Service leavers at risk of homelessness has been officially opened by Foreign Secretary William Hague today.
The Beacon is a new thirty-one unit housing, training and support centre based near Catterick Garrison, providing specialist support to single homeless veterans from around the country.
It is the latest and most comprehensive addition to a national network of support provided by Riverside English Churches Housing Group (ECHG), an organisation who are specialists in working with homeless veterans, in partnership with the MOD.
The Beacon will specifically target single ex-servicemen and women who are most at risk of homelessness, providing them with temporary accommodation for up to 18 months. The centre provides access to top of the range IT equipment, on-site training facilities, as well as guiding residents into employment and permanent housing.
Importantly, local health and complementary practitioners are also utilising The Beacon to tackle the very pressing physical and psychological issues that some veterans have, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Since setting up their unique partnership with the MOD thirteen years ago, Riverside ECHG have provided specialist support to almost 9,500 ex-servicemen and women including running the Mike Jackson House supported housing project based in Aldershot specifically designed for homeless veterans, a housing advice service in Colchester Garrison and a national telephone advice line for any single veterans facing homelessness.
The Beacon has been built with partnership funding from the Homes and Communities Agency and the Department for Communities and Local Government on land, like in the case of Mike Jackson House, provided by the MOD.
Riverside ECHG’s Managing Director, Derek Caren said:
We believe that those who’ve served their country deserve to have the most up to date support possible if they find themselves facing homelessness.
The last few years have seen a lot of focus going into the provision of updated training and accommodation centres for the general homeless population.
Along with the Ministry of Defence and our other partners we have pushed hard for The Beacon to be developed and we are extremely proud to be able to offer Veterans a state-of-the-art facility where they can get the specialist support they need to transform their lives.
James Turner, from the MOD Joint Service Housing Advice Office, said:
The Beacon is the delivery of a commitment made as part of the cross governmental Service Personnel Command Paper in 2008. Its location next to Catterick Garrison puts in place another piece of the support infrastructure which now exists around the country to help the most vulnerable of Service leavers.
The Beacon commenced operating at the end of 2011, since when it had 31 individuals through the supported accommodation, and it is currently operating at full capacity.
Staff at the Beacon work closely with both the Personnel Recovery Unit and the Personnel Recovery Assessment Centre (PRAC) and two flats at the Beacon have been adapted for disabled veterans, both of which are currently occupied, from referrals from the PRU.
Among the training opportunities at the Beacon are a landscaping service and an on-site bakery, where residents can learn a new trade and get qualifications. There is also a multi-gym where the first five Veterans to have attended have already gained their Level 2 Gym Instructor accreditations.
Facilities even include a multimedia suite for those who are more artistically inclined.
As a complement to the development, Riverside has also capitalised on the land released by the Ministry of Defence at the site on which the Beacon is based, to build a separate development of twelve affordable family homes for rent adjacent to the new centre.
Sue Freeth, Director of Operations at The Royal British Legion, said:
The Beacon will provide vitally needed support to homeless veterans offering opportunities to re-train and gain new qualifications, equipping them with the skills and confidence they need to readjust to life as a civilian.
At the official opening today with William Hague was Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff - Personnel, Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, who said:
The vast majority of people leaving the Services each year make a successful transition to civilian life. For the small minority who struggle to successfully reintegrate into society, places like the Beacon are a lifeline offering the right mix of accommodation, training and employment opportunities to get veterans back on their feet.
I am delighted that MOD is contributing a total of £365,000 towards the Beacon.