By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
An army veteran who struggled to readjust back into society has described how more purpose-built housing is needed for homeless ex-servicemen.
Broxtowe Borough Council is building a brand-new development in Oakfield Road in Stapleford to house homeless veterans. The five-flat development is set to be opened in November.
Plans are also underway to build a similar development in Eastwood.
Corporal Trevor Naylor, 57, from Eastwood, served in the Armed Forces for 17 years and was first stationed in Germany during the Cold War. He was tasked with patrolling the Berlin Wall – which separated the East from the West.
He later served in Northern Ireland, then Bosnia.
Family ties to the military – his grandfather had served in World War I – and being obsessed with toy soldiers as a child meant it was inevitable he would enrol.
But nothing prepared Mr Naylor for life on the outside world once his service ended in 1999.
He said: “I have seen a lot and you try and shut it off but as you get older you weaken. The lock on the safe just undoes itself and that is why many people turn to drink and drugs. They can’t handle it.
“There is a lot of voluntary help available, but it is pride. You don’t think anyone else should know. Soon as you leave that gate, if you have got nowhere to live then you are done.
“Our [former] troops are on the streets – and they are getting arrested just to get a roof over their head. They want to be rough and tough soldiers and don’t want to reach out.”
Broxtowe Borough Council’s housing department said it was aware of ex-soldiers left “sofa-surfing” or struggling to find a place to live after leaving the armed forces.
The exact number of homeless veterans in Broxtowe is not known, but the need was great enough for the council to invest around £700,000 in building the scheme.
Mr Naylor said: “I have not heard of any other places like this. This is the first place around here and I am proud that something is happening.”
Cllr Tim Hallam (Lib Dem), who covers Stapleford South East for Broxtowe Borough Council, served as an engineer working on Harrier aircraft in Afghanistan.
He said: “We are rubbish at looking after our veterans well. It should not be down to charities to do that. It should be down to Governments to help them out and this is what this project is. It makes me proud.”
The flats – which will be permanent homes for veterans – will have their own lounge, kitchen, a bedroom and bathroom.
Cllr Milan Radulovic, leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, added: “We own it. It is on our land. I am sick of seeing pictures of people who have served this country on the streets.
“It has got to stop and if every authority took their responsibility seriously, we would not have a problem. This is just the start of Broxtowe’s programme.
“We don’t want any veteran on the streets. It is a national scandal.
“There are thousands on the streets, suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and with problems accessing adequate housing that meets their needs.
“These are bigger than single-person flats. It is independent living offered at normal rent.”