The volunteer-run Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen (One) is appealing for public help, indicating it needs at least €600,000 annually to run services with plans to increase them in line with the rise in homelessness among former members of the army, naval service, and air corps.
Chief executive of One, Ollie O’Connor, said single men in particular were falling through the cracks and they were now seeing much younger former servicemen in trouble than ever before.
“There are a lot of ex- soldiers sleeping rough,” he said. “In the UK, one in every four veterans has become homeless at some stage.
“We don’t have exact figures available to us in this country but we are likely to have a similar type of problem.”
One provides residential centres in Dublin, Athlone, and Letterkenny and has drop-in advice centres in Dundalk and Limerick.
“At any one time we are probably providing accommodation for 40 residents,” said Mr O’Connor. “Ten years ago the vast majority of residents were aged over 60, Now the vast majority are under 60.
“Accommodation is very expensive for somebody who is in a broken relationship and is still responsible for the upkeep of a family.”
All One fundraisers are unpaid volunteers, as are its board of directors.
Since 1994, when One built its first residential facility at Queens St, Dublin, more than 700 ex-personnel have been provided with a place to stay, and many others have been helped in various ways.
Mr O’Connor said One wants to increase its drop-in centres by opening services in Cork, Kilkenny, and Mullingar. It is appealing to businessmen who may have an unused premises to donate the building to the organisation.
“Loneliness is a big thing for some former members as the Defence Forces was seen as their family. They can drop in for advice, or simply a chat and a cup of tea,” said Mr O’Connor.
The organisation’s Fuschia Appeal 2016, to raise funds for its services, was launched yesterday by chief of staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett.
Mr O’Connor said: “The Fuchsia Appeal enables us to help former colleagues who are having a difficult time and sometimes without a home.
“Many of these people gave outstanding service to the State and to the United Nations and for one reason or another have fallen on hard times.”