Wales

Carmarthenshire vulnerable veterans home rejected

Proposed veterans' home in Carmarthen
Image caption The charity had hoped the property in Carmarthen would have housed up to six veterans at a time

Plans for a home for veterans who struggle to adapt to life when they leave the armed forces has been turned down by Carmarthenshire planners.

Alabare Christian Care had hoped to provide accommodation in Carmarthen for those who were homeless, had drink or drugs problems or mental health issues.

It would have been the first of its kind in Wales.

The charity said it was "extremely disappointed" the plans were rejected and would consider appealing.

It had applied to convert a house on a residential street into shared accommodation for up to six veterans aged between 18 and 65 to live in at any one time - with two support workers visiting during the day.

They would have been given help to manage their lives, including how to look after their money and apply for jobs, along with training and support to deal with their problems.

But planners rejected it after locals expressed concerns about the home being close to two primary schools, along with worries about increased traffic and noise.

Geoffrey Willis, campaign director for Alabare, said he understood people's concerns but insisted there had never been any problems at the 16 homes it currently runs in England.

He added that they would consider appealing the decision and were still committed to opening accommodation in Carmarthen, along with Pontypridd, Cardiff and Swansea.

The charity, which helps all homeless people, said it decided to open homes specifically for veterans after finding it was supporting an increasing number of them.

"These are people who have often been in the armed forces for over 20 years, living in such a structured environment where so much is done for them, like food and homes," said Mr Willis.

"They have difficulty adjusting to civilian life. A big factor is often relationship break-downs, which can then lead to homelessness.

"A number of them will have debt problems and difficulty managing a budget - something they haven't had to do before.

"Some have mental health problems - the biggest being depression, anxiety and a lack of confidence. Some also have post-traumatic stress disorder - about 20% of those we see with a mental health issue.

"These problems can then lead to issues with drinking. The Army is very boozy so they turn to drink to deal with anxiety."

Heart of communities

Alabare estimates that there are around 220,000 veterans in Wales. Every year around 20,000 personnel leave the armed forces in the UK.

Mr Willis said that while there is support for veterans who need to deal with injuries and disabilities, there is less help given to those with mental health issues and people struggling to adapt to their new civilian lives.

In total, the homeless charity plans to provide 72 bed spaces in Wales within 15 separate houses, with those in need being referred to it by the Royal British Legion, GPs and councils.

In England it has so far helped around 260 veterans - 70% of them from the Army, 20% ex-Navy and Royal Marines and 10% who served in the RAF.

Mr Willis said most of their homes met with local opposition during the planning application process because it wanted them located in the heart of communities.

"We're trying to help them to become independent and give them a stable home and being within the community is a key part of it," Mr Willis added.

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