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Longlevens is the 'wrong place' to house traumatised war veterans, objectors say

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 20, 2014

Gloucestershire’s first Home for Veterans opens its doors at 43 Alexandra Road, Gloucester. Left to right, chief executive of Alabare, Andrew Lord, residents Stacey Gilpin and Tan Rauto, and team leader Joe Larkin.

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A NUMBER of Longlevens residents said this is the “wrong place” to help alcoholic or traumatised war veterans adjust to civilian life.

Christian charity Alabare wants to house eight ex-servicemen on Church Road where they can receive the support they need to address the issues that have rendered them homeless.

A heated meeting was held at the library where campaign director Geoffrey Willis attempted to address concerns, which ranged from the tenants’ ease of access to alcohol to fears they may lash out at children.

Apparent supporters of the scheme say they were left disappointed by some residents who were kicking the very people who have fought for their freedom “in the teeth.”

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Mr Willis said the charity helps 249 veterans in 16 homes in residential areas across six cities, from Plymouth to Salisbury, and there have been no complaints in five years.

He said: “What you fear has not yet happened. Your community is a good one and with your support the service will be even better.

“Everything we do as a charity is geared towards moving the people through that home and allow them to live independently.”

He said a number of former soldiers they help deal with debt issues, depression and anxiety which he said is often borne out of coming from an institutionalised environment. But the ‘move-on’ rate to homes with a lesser degree of care stands at 90 per cent.

Mr Willis said each tenant will have to be assessed on their suitability for the accommodation and must make a “commitment to engaging with support workers” before moving in to the home, where they will stay for a maximum of two years. Concern was expressed about how the property will be used once the former soldiers have left.

A number of tenants in other areas have also ended up working in charity shops before entering paid employment, the meeting heard.

One resident told Mr Willis: “We have hundreds of children going backwards and forwards past this house. Some of the ex-servicemen are mentally scarred. It is quite possible one of these children could be out and bump into one of these people, who may lash out.”

Others expressed fear that those who depend on alcohol may drink on the street or in parks and start a fight on their way back to the home, which will be staffed from 9am until 6pm. There will be a 24-hour call out service in the event of emergency seven days a week.

One woman said: “I have to say these men are human beings and not aliens from Mars.

“What makes them any different from any other people walking up and down the road? These men deserve the right to be put back into society.”

A number of residents with opposing views clashed; some were described as ‘Nimbys’ and a few were told each other to “shut up.”

The charity has submitted a planning application to Gloucester City Council to change the use of a property, which it has not yet bought, from a dwelling house to a property accommodating eight non-related individuals.

Mr Willis added: “We want to reintegrate these people who may be are not as extreme as you are imagining.

“We want people to lead ordinary lives and have ordinary jobs – we can’t help them do that on the remote deserts of Dartmoor.”

Alabare specialises in reintegrating vulnerable veterans back into civilian life and operations director Janet Herring said relationship breakdowns are the main reason why these people have become homeless.

The charity already has a smaller home for veterans at Alexandra Road.

Conservative leader of Gloucester City Council Paul James residents have until March 31 to make their views to the council.

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  • iwantpeace  |  March 21 2014, 5:58PM

    The house/bungalow behind has been on the market for a very long time and still it hasn't been sold. Why is that? I thought the housing market was buoyant.

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  • jackson99  |  March 20 2014, 5:34PM

    Bunch of tiresome uncaring Nimbys

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  • GlosAnarchy  |  March 20 2014, 4:51PM


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  • basildog14  |  March 20 2014, 4:41PM

    I live in church road and went to the meeting last night, i thought the whole point of this meeting was for local resident to air the worries and concerns about the new proposed project. No one is denying what a great job our service men & women are doing but they do choose to join, no one is making them. There was even a n ex service man there who said Longlevens was not the correct location for this project and surely he knows better then anyone of us or experts . Those people last night who said that this is a free country with freedom of speech need to remember their own words when they choose to condemn those of us who decided to speak our minds. i bet those people who said we should rot in hell and be ashamed of ourselves probably don't even live on church or near the proposed site. i think another meeting should be held where we can meet with the people dealing with the property planning application and maybe even a couple of people form their other homes. This is me just giving my freedom of speech !!!!

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  • GlosAnarchy  |  March 20 2014, 2:40PM

    hownow here here

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  • hownow  |  March 20 2014, 1:20PM

    I think there needs to be some balance here. The points about majoritys made by Jenny is correct - it is the vocal locals that will turn up to these meetings, there will be a greater number of people who either support it, or couldn't care less either way that do not turn up, so claiming a majority is not right. As for value of the local housing - generally there would need to be some noticable change, ie massive trees/fences/extensions or increased incidents of crime or anti-social behaviour (which neither can be accuratley predicted!) As for the location ABMS1's description of the local amenities could pretty welll describe any suburb/ward of Gloucester with the exception of teh city centre. And surely a suburban location is exactly what is needed to deal with a small number of people and try to support them getting back on their feet. Putting something like this is the middle of the city centre, or even in the middle of a country lane would serve no useful purpose. There are issues here because people know what they are planning on doing and people are quick to see the negative - but think about it, what do you know about whats going on in your local area behind closed doors! You have to ask yourselves though, if this was a 'home for recovering alcoholics' rather than a 'home for recovering service personel' would there be quite as mush support - I can see that ABMS1 has no issues with service personel, and maybe some people are quick to jump onto the 'support the forces' element of this - but the fact of the matter is that as decent human beings we should all be supporting each other. I believe our srvice personel deserve all assistance that they can get, as does anyone else who is suffering and willing to engage in support services.

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  • ABMS1  |  March 20 2014, 12:14PM

    Ask an agent about the prices would be my best advice.. Will you be residing at the property Jemmy? I guess not. I do not know you and by shear fact that you are using the internet at home or the office its a fair bet you won't be there any time soon. Still no response to it being unstaffed after hours.... Surely the best outcome would be a compromise? Staffing 24 hours. Please remember that my argument is NOT with current or ex-servicemen.

  • JemmyWood  |  March 20 2014, 11:37AM

    ABMS1, no.. its YOU that has failed to back up your arguments. How EXACTLY is it going to make the property behind harder to sell?? lets have some facts backed up with figures. Also... how close behind is this property? 15 feet perhaps? you tell me... What is between these properties? gardens? trees? a big fence perhaps? maybe a brick wall? You have failed to answer any of the questions I asked below.. so please enlighten us.... Over to you. Oh and by the way, I am an ex-serviceman, I served for 23 years and have multiple tours in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanisatn... Am I deemed to be too much of a monster and potential crazed killer and alcoholic for the gentle folk of Longlevens?

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  • ABMS1  |  March 20 2014, 11:24AM

    As I have said as a whole the values wont be effected. It will make the property behind harder to sell FACT. And not one convincing response to any other of my arguments. Surprise surprise

  • GlosAnarchy  |  March 20 2014, 11:22AM

    ABMS1 - I take it you didn't understand, Gloucester isn't just Longlevens! Your argument appears to be that democracy should be on a micro level ie just a street or a few residents closest to the development/alteration/extension, if this was the case then nothing would ever get built! I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather but that has nothing to do with the discussion and there is nothing to stop a veteran from being a NIMBY. So it's going to affect ONE property you said it not me! I used to live close to the old homeless shelter in Gloucester just thank your lucky stars you didn't have to put up with that, they used to throw the residents out in the morning and they had nowhere to go other than to the local newsagents and get ****ed again and start urinating in the streets!

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