Even over email, the drawing in of breath when you suggest that you are going to write a blog about knitting to former professional soldiers, is audible.
Dolph Lundgren once amusingly suggested on a chat show that he relaxed by doing needlepoint, but I must confess I’ve never taken the time to learn cross stitch, nor knitting. What I do spend a fair bit of time doing, however, is following social media.
One Twitter feed that I stumbled upon is InKnitTogether. It’s a group of people who band together to knit warm clothing for homeless people. Coming from where we do, it’s fair to say that’s probably not our usual circle.
But it highlights something that should – and, if you are reading this, almost certainly does, concern us. Figures show that on any night in 2016, an average of 4,134 slept rough – a doubling in numbers since 2010. There’s also compelling evidence that suggests sleeping rough and mental health problems are related.
Crucially, ex-service personnel are one of the groups most likely to end up rough sleeping.
The homelessness charity Crisis applauds work carried out between 1997 and 2007 which reduced ex-services homelessness from 22% of all homeless people to 6%. However, if our armed forces were 6% of the population, we’d have four branches that totalled 360,000 personnel. We actually have 154,000. As a veteran, you are over twice as likely as another citizen to be homeless.
Yet the descent into homelessness is seldom freefall; it comes gradually and as options narrow.
Halting this incremental loss of options is why organisations such as Veterans Network are so important. In every forces career, there comes a day when everything changes; when certainties of meals, housing and so on, stop. But the instinct to have your mate’s back, doesn’t.
Joining the organisation, participating, giving what you can – even though that might “only” be some encouraging words, is having someone’s six. And it means something to the recipient, and to those giving; helping some veterans’ start-up business has, for me, been really rewarding.
You joined up once, why not join up again?
And, for the record, I’m told that you *can* get balls of wool in maroon.
Written by Guy Dorrell