A little over 20 years ago I had a dream that if I was ever to win the lottery I would buy a house and turn it into a drop in centre for our Veterans.
After service support, unlike your military uniform, is not ‘a one size fits all’ which is why we need places like the drop in centres. A place where you can come and get support, advice and a hot meal.
I didn’t win the lottery but I did meet some people who shared my vision and were able to put some resources behind the vision. Tim Jones (Founder), Exforces.net, Sarah Austin (Chief Operations Officer) and Danielle Doyle (Property Systems Officer) Solent NHS Trust, and Caroline Hopper (Armed Forces Covenant Programme Manager) Southampton City Council.
Our discussions centred on providing local Veterans with a helping hand, whether that is by getting them out of the house and in amongst company, connected with local support, into housing and back into employment.
To achieve this, we are linking up with other organisations, which will provide major support to our service at our new, dedicated centre. The service will be run by volunteers, all of whom will receive training to ensure we achieve real life changes for people accessing our services.
Veterans Outreach Service will be a big part of our offer, with the monthly meetings for help and support, and open for at least 3 days per week until 2100hrs. We intend to increase the service, with a view to going six days, dependant on volunteer staffing levels.
Solent NHS Trust has offered us a short term lease for the Woolston Clinic, which will enable Southampton Veterans’ drop-in centre to become a reality and begin to raise a profile. Southampton City Council have given us funding to run a monthly multi-agency drop for the next two years which will help establish the support services we offer. This drop-in will be part of a network of drop-in’s for Veterans and their families around the Solent region.
The Woolston Clinic will have everything needed to help ensure the Health and Well-being of our Veterans. It has a treatment room for our volunteer nurse to perform a well-being clinic as well as rooms that are to be used for group discussions or one to one advice or support sessions with visiting guest agencies. There is also a little IT suite for job searches, CV writing, looking up information and maybe re-establishing contact with lost family members. For those that may not feel too confident, IT training will be given to cover the essentials in both applications and social media.
None of this would have been at all possible without the help and generosity from members of the breakfast club, staff of Solent NHS Trust and Southampton City Council and the Solent Armed Forces Covenant Partnership. Now Southampton Veteran’s Drop-in Centre is established. We will be looking for a permanent base in Southampton and looking to eventually establish more centres, ensuring that we can reach the most vulnerable ex-service men and women in our region.
The centre’s opening day is 23rd July 2018 at 10am.