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Posted on 15th May, 2013

Help for hero Stig,

an ex-soldier discharged to homelessness.


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Stig, once an army hero, but discharged as a homeless civilian.If you're the type of person who thinks the homeless are layabouts, illegal immigrants, scroungers etc, have you ever wondered exactly why it is that organisations such as Help for Heroes support homeless people? Well, although he's had no involvement with HfH itself, Stig is the perfect example of someone helped by them: once an army hero, but then discharged to a homeless existence, once his usefulness 'expired'.


That's right, Stig was once a member of the regular army, having served in Germany and Northern Ireland, following a spell whetting his appetite in the Territorial Army. His NI experience was especially traumatic: aged just 20, he witnessed the death of a close mate when their Land Rover was attacked on the Falls Road in Belfast, despite his own frantic efforts to rescue him. Army experiences took a heavy toll on Stig, who became epileptic. He was subsequently discharged from the army on medical grounds, destroying his treasured career, together with his self-esteem and positive outlook. Not surprisingly perhaps, Stig became heavily alcohol-dependent, getting through 18 cans a day.


No help was given by the armed forces to find a home for Stig, and not wanting to be a burden on his parents, he started to sleep rough. Eventually, he managed to get free food and lodgings from a pub where he was resident DJ. Stig continued to re-build his life, finding a 'proper' job running a waste-disposal site for 12 years, and getting married. Unfortunately though, the marriage ended after just 18 months, when Stig discovered that his wife was still seeing her ex.


It was at this point that Stig moved to Northampton, staying with a girlfriend, Cheryl, he'd long-before got to know as a pen-pal. The arrangement became uncomfortable however, as Cheryl had a disabled sister, and Stig felt that he was intruding. Luckily though, a friend he'd met in the meantime allowed him to live for free in a Portakabin, in a derelict service station he owned that was awaiting re-development. But when that development did start towards the end of 2009, Stig was homeless for a second time. On the streets through the winter of 2009 / 2010, help from another friend at last allowed Stig to get a proper roof over his head in a private rented bedsit.


Stig's been in the bedsit for about 3 years now, and life has re-gained some stability. He frequently visits the Salvation Army, Street Church, and Hope Centre drop-ins. Although he's still alcohol-dependent, the support of those three agencies, the added meaning that a stable relationship with Cheryl has brought to his life, and a warning bout of pneumonia have all helped Stig get that down to just a few cans a day. An artistic flair for painting has emerged after attending a course at the Hope Centre, and he's even managed to sell a few of his creations. He visits his dad monthly, greatly missing his mother who died early in 2012. There's regular contact with all his kids, and you can sense the exceptional pride when speaking of son Kevin, who's serving, as Stig himself did, with his beloved Royal Artillery.


All in all then, I think Stig's now got good cause to say "I'm reasonably comfortable with my lot".


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