“Launchpad has saved me. It has given me a roof over my head – somewhere safe and secure to live, I cannot thank them enough.”
Lee moved into Launchpad at the beginning of 2018 and is now looking forward to moving on with his life. He feels ready to take that next step and dreams of the day he will be living in a mobile home parked up next to the sea where he can go out on his bike and take long walks along the beach.
It could of all been quite a different outcome had he not found Launchpad where he has been living and receiving support for his mental health.
Lee grew up in Longfield, Kent and experienced an abusive childhood. When his parents separated and he moved to Gravesend, he was left with two choices, join the Army or be homeless.
Maybe he was destined for a career in the military after his grandad served as a soldier in the war so he chose to serve his country and signed up to the British Army as a guard, based at Shorncliffe. He completed 18 months training as a junior leader in the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion and tried to put his abusive childhood behind him but found it followed him after experiencing bullying within the ranks. He decided to leave and took on a job as a paint sprayer working for a local garage. After a year and a half, he wanted to get back into the Army and re-joined as a junior sergeant for Queens Regiment.
He was based at Bassingbourne Barracks in Colchester, completing twelve years’ service and serving operational tours in Northern Ireland and Cyprus. He enjoyed it and quickly progressed through the ranks. In 1984, he joined the Royal Anglian Regiment and served for two years before re-joining the Royal Signals based at Witton Barracks in Aston Brook, Birmingham.
Here, he met his girlfriend and after a long-term relationship, he decided to leave the forces. However, his relationship became abusive so he left and moved to Hastings. He attended Hastings College to complete a BTEC training course and gained a degree in hotel and pub management at Hastings University. He secured work at Hasting Borough Council working as a community warden but took voluntary redundancy after 14 years.
He moved to Newcastle with his girlfriend of eight years but again, his relationship became abusive and in 2013 he left her and ended up living on the streets with no money. He contacted Northumberland County Council who put him in touch with Veterans UK. They introduced him to Launchpad’s Avondale House in Newcastle and a flat was available for him to move in to.
“Launchpad was like a breath of fresh air. Scheme’s like this that help homeless veterans and put a roof over their heads is a godsend. The support has given me confidence and has built me back up. I left last November and moved back to Gravesend but it was too much so I and ended up coming back after a month.
“At least I knew I could come back and the support was there when I needed it. You need to resolve your problems before you move on. My advice is don’t jump – make sure you’re ready to go and take your time.”
At 58, Lee is seen as a father figure within the house – someone that others look up to. He is also mentoring others and even helped one veteran who was living on the streets addicted to heroin by bringing him to Launchpad. Now, he is doing really well and is himself looking to move on.
Lee credits ABF Soldiers’ Charity for giving him the support he needed to furnish his flat. He has just received a new sofa and bed after receiving a grant to furnish his flat.
“People take things like furniture for granted but when you have nothing and are starting from scratch, the help and support you get from charities like ABF and Launchpad are second to none – without them, things would be very different. I really appreciate it.”
Lee is moving forward with his life and is looking forward to a better quality life and a happy retirement. He has learnt from previous relationships and breakdowns and is always willing to help others but recognises, he needs to help himself too. He has made his home in the North East and now he is in another relationship but is taking one day at a time.