Homelessness / poverty

The Facts about Rough-sleeping ex-servicemen

HomelessinlondonA regular issue that is often put forward by the anti-migrant/refugee lobby  is that of the great numbers of homeless ex-service personnel who are rough sleeping on the streets.  Their argument is that, whilst ever there is one person who , at some time in their history served in the armed forces (active or otherwise), is sleeping rough, then no refugees should be accepted into the country.  Whether the zero position is reasonable is one issue, but how significant is the extent of rough sleeping in this population.

Since the 2002 Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order then any person who is “vulnerable as a result of leaving the armed forces” automatically has priority on the Local Authority’s housing register – they are considered to be “statutorily homeless” and consequently the Council has a legal obligation to house them.  For those who cannot find accommodation through their own means, then there is this “safety net”.

There are many media reports about large numbers sleeping rough although these tend to be taken from the 1990s. A 2008 study by the University of York into Homeless Ex-Service Personnel in  London stated:

“A reduction of the percentage of Veterans in the homeless population from 22% in 1997 to 6% by 2007 is a staggering achievement and is testament to a commitment by the ex-Services charity community to tackle the problem”

The figure of 6%, also supported by the Crisis charity, relates to “homeless” people ( this includes people who have accommodation and a bed to sleep in but which is not theirs, people  staying with friends as well as  rough sleepers).  The proportion who were actually on the streets  would be considerably less. In a Crisis survey in 2012 they estimated that 2300 people were sleeping rough in England at any one time. Assuming that 6% were ex-service personnel then this suggests that there are about 150 sleeping rough throughout the whole of England.

There is no information which indicates how many saw active service or who were in that situation for completely unrelated reasons.

The Royal British Legion describe the assertion that “many veterans sleep rough” as a Myth. In their report on the subject they concluded:

“A 2007 National Audit Office survey of those undergoing the resettlement programme found that just less than 5% of respondents, mainly young and of junior rank, reported that they had been homeless at some point in the past two years. This survey didn’t specify the type of homelessness experienced, so may include those staying with friends temporarily, as well as those  sleeping rough”

“Overall, there is little support for the popular assumption that many veterans end up on the street directly as a result of their experience in the Armed Forces”

There is no evidence from any reputable source to support the claims made in the tabloids that “9000” ex-service personnel are sleeping rough. Whether it is reasonable that a veteran who was never seen active service should have a higher priority than any another long-serving public servant ( e.g. nurse, doctor, police officer, fire-fighter etc) is a moot point. I would agree that any person who has been on active service should always be fully supported throughout their life and be given priority treatment.


For those people who are ex-service personnel, and are on the streets, or at risk of being so, and are vulnerable by virtue of their time in the armed forces, should declare themselves homeless to the local Council, and exercise their statutory right.

Other options are to contact the Royal British Legion who will help all veterans.

This link also provides other contacts.


In Derby, there are approximately 10-15 rough sleepers at any one time. There is no published count of how many were in the Armed Forces but statistically it is not likely to be more than 1, if any

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s