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Saturday 27th June 2020 is Armed Forces Day, a national celebration of the men and women who make up our Armed Forces community.

Steve Lambert has worked as Senior Armed Forces Outreach Worker at YHN for the past 5 years and is himself a former soldier, serving 12 years in the Armed Forces before going on to support veterans within the prison system for over 25 years.

Here he talks about his experience of supporting members of the Armed Forces community and their families through the Armed Forces Outreach Service (AFOS).

How have you found your experience of supporting members of the Armed Forces Community? What do you find rewarding or challenging about the role?

“I have found it to be very rewarding and gain much personal satisfaction to be in the privileged position of providing much needed support to our Armed Forces Community.

The Armed Forces Outreach Service provide housing advice, including step-by-step guidance on how to complete the housing application. This can be quite daunting for a forces family who have been in the service for twenty-plus years and are about to leave and go back into civilian life.

Everything is taken care for them while they are in the Armed Forces (housing, healthcare, schools, etc) so they find it to be a whole new experience. Some veteran customers are not fully aware of the support out there and are amazed to find what they can access.

AFOS includes financial support which can provide the veteran or their family with removal costs, rent arrears, rent and bonds, furnishings and employment, training & development opportunities.

I am a former serving soldier which enables me to understand what obstacles a veteran may face and together we are able to work through them.

Once a veteran customer learns of my armed forces background, potential communication barriers are removed, and it becomes so much easier for them to open up and engage more positively.

I also work with homeless veterans and find it very rewarding to know that I have helped them gain accommodation, achieve employment status and see their self-esteem rise as they regain their self-respect back.

Having the experience, knowledge and professional contacts within the North-East Armed Forces Network allows me to get the very best support for a veteran who has fallen on hard times.”

Do you have some favourite stories from your time as Senior Armed Forces Outreach Officer?

“One of the most satisfying experiences during my time at YHN has been supporting veteran Bill Hull.

We first came in contact when he contacted us to apply for his Veterans Badge after seeing an article on AFOS in our newsletter. To cut a long story short, I felt we could honour Bill’s service by getting the Mayor involved and requested if they would present the Veterans Badge at Bill’s home with his family present. It was an unforgettable day and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

From that day, Bill and I formed a strong professional relationship and our paths crossed again when Bill contacted me in relation to housing.

Bill had lived in his current family 4-bedroom YHN house for over 40 years but felt he needed to move into something smaller.

I assisted Bill in acquiring and moving into sheltered accommodation where he currently lives. He is extremely happy there and has made some good friends with other residents. He takes great pride in maintaining his front garden and spends many hours sitting outside on his bench enjoying life, having a cuppa and watching life going by.

In recognition of Bill’s armed forces service, I also put his name forward when Newcastle City Council were looking for representatives for Armed Forces week. Bill and I were cordially invited to Newcastle Civic Centre as guests of the Lord Mayor. This proved an overwhelming occasion for Bill, but one that he would remember for the rest of his life.

There are many fine examples of some very special occasions that I have been a part of, but the one with Billy Hull takes some beating.”