Standard reporter Ryan Merrifield went along to Imjin House – one of Homes for Veterans Gloucestershire residences – to meet some of the veterans who have lived or still live there, as well as representatives from Alabaré, the charity that runs it.

THE Homes for Veterans (HFV) scheme was launched in 2009 when charity Alabaré identified a need for a different homeless service for those in the veteran community who are struggling to adjust to life in the civilian world.

Imjin House, in the Gloucester suburb of Longlevens, opened in November 2014 thanks to tens of thousands of pounds in grants from ABF: The Soldiers’ Charity.

Six veterans are in residence at the eight-bed house with two more due to move in this month. “I was unsure at first about even going to have a look around,” said John Clarke, 28, who joined the forces in 2007 and fought in Afghanistan.

“I was in two minds because I’d heard negative things about a veteran hostel from a friend. But, as it happens I came along and found a really nice place. I was astonished and settled in quickly.”

John, who moved into the veterans home in September 2014, had begun to find it difficult to hold down work, and became depressed, turning to drink and drugs.

“I was on and off out of work for four years,” he said. “I was really low and was going to end up on the streets. I couldn’t pay my rent.”

Sarah Bowie, Alabaré marketing officer, said: “People don’t always understand that someone can leave the forces and go years before they suddenly start suffering.

"Something triggers previous traumas in them that they weren’t aware of initially.”

Most veterans across the scheme’s 24 homes throughout the South West remain for 12-18 months, where they are supported by a specialist team, in this case by Alabaré support workers and ex-servicemen Neil Hunt and Kenneth Kwogyenga in re-building their independence and self-confidence.

Help is given in seeking access to specialist support with any mental or physical health problems, including addictions, that they have, and when ready, help in finding local training and employment opportunities, as well as moving out into their own places to live independently.

The veterans are taught budgeting and shopping skills, as well as healthy eating. There is no alcohol or drugs allowed in the house, and no smoking. Communal cooking and activities are encouraged, while gym membership is free, thanks to the generous support of the local rotary club, something which has helped many of the veterans find structure and motivation.

The project is staffed 75 hours per week by Kenneth and Neil, who are on site between 9am and 5pm, with a duty on call system in-between.

Roger Laughlin, 72, who served in Germany and Northern Ireland, before joining the Territorial Army for 16 years in 1971, moved to Spain around four years ago with his wife. But the house they bought turned out to have been built illegally, meaning they lost their home and life savings, which put strain on their marriage.

Roger came back to the UK having separated from his wife, with no belongings, eventually moving into Imjin House at the end of 2014.

Martin Artott, 47, who was medically discharged in 1996 from the army with severe PTSD, arrived last August. “I needed help,” he said.

“They’re a good bunch of guys. We all like to cook together although I was allocated head chef status because no-one else wanted to do it. I drive a lot of the guys around because I’m the only one with a vehicle; I don’t mind though, we’re all veterans at the end of the day, and you look after each other.”

Martin’s service history includes tours in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and with the support of the team from HFV, he is now living in his own flat, furnished thanks to financial support from the Royal British Legion and the Gloucester Welfare Reform.

He is keen to return to the home as a volunteer and help support other veterans who are experiencing similar issues.

HFV sees veterans progress in stages when they are ready. At the right time, the residents of Imjin House will move to Firth House, a 4 -bed ‘move-on’ property, for veterans who feel more at ease with independent living, explained Neil.

Then, when they are completely ready and depending on personal circumstances, they are able to move to independent living. Once ‘independent’, the support team continue to offer an outreach programme and maintain regular contact with the veterans to ensure that no one “falls through the cracks,” said Neil.

Roger moved into a one-bed flat in May, though still visits Imjin, while John, who at the time of our meeting was attending job interviews, will also be moving into his own place soon.

John said he was learning “not to be worried I’ll be letting anyone down. I know that whatever happens support will be there when I want it. That’s a confidence boost.”

Jen Griffiths, community fundraiser for Gloucestershire HFV, works with regional branches of many larger national charities such as military charities SSAFA and Walking with the Wounded, as well as engaging with various local community groups.

She said: “Community support is vital in allowing us to carry on our life changing work and we are so lucky to have the support and encouragement of our neighbours and community groups.

To find out more about HFV, including becoming a volunteer, visit or contact Jen on