- Op FORTITUDE – the pathway for homeless veterans – launched nationally by Veterans’ Minister Johnny Mercer to end veteran homelessness in 2023
- The hotline is part of £8.55 million fund, which will also bring wraparound support services to support 1,300 veterans across more than 900 housing units
- Guidance also published signposting support to secure social or private housing
From today, vulnerable veterans across the country will have access to Op FORTITUDE, a new dedicated referral pathway for homeless veterans, including those sleeping on the streets.
The first-of-its-kind hotline is part of a two-year £8.55 million programme to fulfil the government’s pledge to end veteran rough sleeping. The Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan 2022-24 sets out the intention to achieve this within the current Parliament, but thanks to new funding this is set to be achieved ahead of schedule.
Run by social housing provider Riverside Group, the £500,000 housing hotline will give homeless veterans a single point of contact to get them the help they need. Op FORTITUDE staff will refer callers to a network of support, including housing providers, charities and local authorities.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer MP, said:
“Everyone deserves a place they can call home, not least those who have served their country. Today’s launch is a huge milestone in ending veteran homelessness and a clear demonstration of this government delivering on its promises.
“There is a lot of great work being done across the country to help veterans get the right level of support. Op FORTITUDE is about bringing all of this together, so any veteran has a clear pathway to get local and customised care.”
Transitioning from the armed forces remains a challenge for some. The programme has been designed to support 1,300 vulnerable veterans over two years across almost 60 housing complexes, ranging from apartment blocks to shared houses.
Projects by nine housing providers will target difficult problems so that veterans can get back on their feet and thrive in civilian life. Wraparound services include specialist medical care, connections with local communities and the tools they need to get jobs.
All nine projects will be ready to take Op FORTITUDE referrals by September, expanding the pathway’s network of housing providers from 10 to 14. This includes plugging into a network of 650 homes across Scotland with Veteran Homes Scotland, as well as a brand new consortium of housing across the North West of England.
Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Felicity Buchan, said:
“Councils have a duty to ensure everyone has a roof over their head, especially veterans who are rightly given priority for accommodation. “We are already giving councils £2bn over three years to end homelessness and this vital new initiative will help us deliver on our mission.”
Lee Buss-Blair, Operations Director, Riverside Group said:
“Riverside are honoured to be the organisation chosen to deliver the Op FORTITUDE pathway. Its mission, to end veteran homelessness, is one that we are extremely passionate about.
“Every veteran, including the most vulnerable, has the potential to make a positive contribution to their communities if given the right support. Ultimately our goal is to ensure that these veterans receive this support and can go on to fulfil their potential.
“This is the first initiative designed to end veteran homelessness, and while the task is a big one, we think that the levels of veteran rough sleeping are such that it is one that we believe can be achieved with collaboration across many sectors.”
To further support veterans in securing housing, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs has published guidance on gov.uk. This guide sets out the housing options and support available to veterans, service leavers and their families in England, including routes into both veteran-specific and civilian housing.
The guide can also be used by providers of housing and housing support services to determine the most appropriate course of action.
In the 2023 Spring Budget, the Office for Veterans’ Affairs secured £20 million for a Veterans Housing Capital Fund. The money will go towards providing extra housing for veterans through the development of new builds and the refurbishment of social and charitable housing for veterans.
“There are still many things that we do not know, including the level of demand we will be faced with. But Op FORTITUDE is an opportunity for us to develop a clear picture of the level of need which will support us to make sure that the veteran sector is structured to be able to effectively respond.”