Sarah is due to leave the Army this September. After nearly 18 years serving, she shares how she found the prospect of leaving the Armed Forces with her four-year-old son overwhelming, and why the discovery of a Stoll property was a lifeline.
Photo - Sarah and her son meeting the Countess of Wessex at the opening of Centenary Lodge
The majority who leave the Armed Forces make a successful transition back into civilian life, but some don’t. Stoll – the leading provider of supported housing for Veterans – helps the most vulnerable Service leavers by providing them with an affordable home to rent and the support they need to lead independent lives. Sarah is just one example.
Prior to the Forces, she had been working with horses and was considering a change of career when the Army came to mind. Sarah joined the Army in January 2001 and serves as an environmental health technician in HQ Regional Command.
‘I have a severely asthmatic son who is four years old and we spend a lot of time in and out of hospital. We have fantastic consultants and great care that I wouldn’t want to change – I couldn’t imagine being deployed and being away from him or leaving the Aldershot area now, knowing that he could get very sick while I’m away on deployment, so I knew now was the right time for me to leave the Army.’
After making the decision to end her time in the Armed Forces, Sarah began to consider her next steps. ‘I want stability for my family. I started looking in to the private rented sector, which would be our housing option, and the cost of living really shocked me – it was totally unaffordable. Getting out and looking for a home and for a job at the same time – everything changing at once – was quite an overwhelming prospect. Even having to start thinking about Council Tax, which in the military you never even consider, was something I had to begin taking into account.’
Stoll has opened brand new accommodation in Aldershot for vulnerable and disabled Veterans. The £10 million development has created 34 much needed homes in Aldershot for people with support needs who have served in the Armed Forces. Stoll’s housing model has worked well in London for 100 years and we are pleased that we will now be able to support Veterans in the Aldershot area to lead fulfilling independent lives.
‘I was referred to Stoll by the Joint Services Housing Advice Office,’ continues Sarah. ‘When I first viewed the property I just felt so lucky. The new Centenary Lodge accommodation means that I can stay in Aldershot and my son can stay at his school and has continuity of care at the same hospitals. The affordable accommodation means that my family life can start to take shape. It will mean I can also live around people from the Armed Forces community and can understand some of my experience in a time of transition for me.’
Centenary Lodge consists of 34 units, including 27 one-bedroom flats, accessible flats for those with disabilities, and family accommodation. The development includes a number of communal spaces for training, therapy and community activities, as well as gardens surrounding the building.
Centenary Lodge is a significant milestone for Stoll as it is the charity’s first housing development outside London. Stoll already provides accommodation in west London, and works with housing associations and local authorities to provide accommodation for Veterans across the UK, through the Veterans’ Nomination Scheme: www.stoll.org.uk/housing/vns/
Find out more
Stoll has been providing support to the Veteran community for more than 100 years and is here to support the next generation of Veterans. For more information about finding a home with Stoll or accessing support, please visit www.stoll.org.uk or call the Outreach Team on 020 7385 2110.
Stoll’s drop-in runs every second Wednesday of the monthat its Fulham site (see above), in the Community Hall