Charity to set up support centres for veterans

A charity is to set up a number of support centres to help former soldiers, sailors and aircrews.

The Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE) also wants the Government to carry out a survey on the number of ex-members of the Defence Forces who are sleeping rough, amid fears they lost homes due to poor pensions and relationship break-ups.

ONE chief executive Ollie O’Connor said 10 of the veteran support centres (VSCs) will be in barracks thanks to an agreement reached with the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence.

The VSC in Cobh, Co Cork, which is intended to serve former navy members, will be opened at the town’s former social welfare office.

“The purpose of the VSC is to provide veterans with a facility that’s a marriage between a Citizens’ Information Centre and Men’s/Women’s Shed. A place to access information on entitlements, somewhere to meet with your comrades, to learn or share skills, to escape loneliness,” Mr O’Connor said.

Volunteers are being trained in the area of welfare and support and in the past month 33 veterans have undergone a mental health first aid course to assist in their role in the VSC.

Mr O’Connor said 87 members of the Defence Forces have died while on missions with many more injured physically or mentally.

The number of homeless veterans in Ireland cannot be quantified as there is no statistical data. 

However, ONE has seen over 700 ex-members of the Defence Forces pass through their homes since 2005. They provide accommodation for 44 veterans in Dublin, Letterkenny and Athlone.

“This suggests there is a requirement that a survey is undertaken to establish how widespread homelessness is among the Irish veteran community,” he said.

ONE gets some money from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and the Department of Defence, but has to raise around €600,000 each year to run its services.

Its main fundraising comes from the annual Fuchia Appeal which will be launched on June 27 by Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett.

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