'Forever' Home for Ex-Forces Mark
A former soldier in the Armed Forces is settling into his forever home thanks to support to find long-term accommodation in South Tyneside.
Until recently, Mark Campbell had been living in the Borough's dedicated 'move-on' accommodation especially for Armed Forces veterans to help them with the transition from service life to civilian life.
The block in Bedford Avenue, Laygate, consists of nine spacious one and two-bedroom furnished flats, which are made affordable for rent to those leaving the forces.
Veterans are also given priority housing status and are signed to a tenancy with a view to move into longer term accommodation within a year. During that time, they are offered support, advice and assistance by the Borough's dedicated Armed Forces Support Officer.
Mark, who moved into Bedford Avenue just as the Covid pandemic hit, has since moved into a new house in Delaval Court - a place he now calls home.
The 44-year-old said: "When I first moved into Bedford Avenue, I didn't really know what to expect. But it has been a huge comfort for me and having the support on hand. If I ever need help with anything, it's great to be able to just pick up the phone.
"While I was sad to leave the property and Covid did delay things a little, I have this place now. I'm delighted to be in my forever home and I'm getting there in making it as homely as possible.
"Being ex-services, I continue to take advantage of local support, such as the NAAFI Break, and I get advice and guidance with things like work and courses, which certainly helps ex-soldiers like me in adjusting to life outside the forces."
South Tyneside's dedicated supported accommodation for veterans was established by South Tyneside Homes, in partnership with South Tyneside Council, in 2018.
Over that time, it has supported more than 200 veterans while providing advice and support with benefits, pensions, employment, housing and signposting to various veteran specific mental health support services.
Referrals for veterans housing are made to South Tyneside Home's Housing Solutions Team by a range of partners including health, probation, social services, the British Legion, HMP Service and armed forces charity, SSAFA.
2021 marks ten years since South Tyneside Council first signed the official Armed Forces Community Covenant - a voluntary statement of mutual support between the civilian and local armed forces communities.
Shortly after that, the multi-agency South Tyneside Armed Forces Forum was established to drive forward awareness raising, new policies and support projects and championing the Armed Forces community in annual events.
South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes are also among a small number of authorities and organisations to hold to coveted Gold Employer Recognition Award from the Ministry of Defence for their commitment to military personnel and their families.
The hugely successful South Tyneside NAFFI break, established in 2016, also offers a drop-in service for current and ex-Services personnel. Run by veterans and civilian volunteers, it offers a place where they can meet, socialise, network and get advice and support on civilian life.
South Tyneside Council is marking this year's Armed Forces Day with a virtual tribute across its social media channels at 11am this Saturday (26 June). Follow South Tyneside Council's and share Armed Forces Day activities and celebrations on Facebook STynesideCouncil and LoveSTyneside and on Twitter @STyne_Council and @LoveSTyneside.
For more information on the wealth of support available for the Armed Forces community in South Tyneside, visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/armedforces