Veterans who built their own homes in Plymouth have been celebrated with a housewarming party in their honour.
The Nelson Project saw ex-service personnel help with the construction of a 24-home site that includes 12 self-build homes for military veterans and 12 mixed use affordable homes, including supported housing.
Local MPs Johnny Mercer and Luke Pollard joined partners Plymouth City Council, leading housing provider DCH, the Community Self Build Agency (CSBA) and the Home and Communities Agency (HCA) at the finished self-build site in the Millbay area of the city.
Plymouth is home to HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in Western Europe, as well as several Royal Marine Commando units.
As well as providing the ex-servicemen with a place to call home, the veterans completed a construction course that helped them develop the skills needed to help engage with the project, as well as provide them with valuable job-based skills. Thanks to their training, many hold CSCS cards and thus are able to find work in the construction industry.
The scheme has not only provided homes, it has played a pivotal role in rebuilding lives. Former soldier John Manuel was living in a hostel recuperating from a heart attack when he first heard about the scheme.
John said: “I have made more friends here than I have my whole life. This has turned my life around.
“It’s been amazing to cook a nice roast dinner, have my own space. It’s nice not having to live a transient life around strangers all the time. I know all my neighbours.
“I hope people out there who’ve been in my situation, people who are homeless, suffering from depression and not sure there is a better life take note of my story. It’s so difficult to adjust and have a positive attitude. But I’m here and I’ve done it. I have found peace.”
Patrick Nicholson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Strategic Transport, Housing and Planning said: “For me, the Nelson Project represents everything that I think is great about this city.
“Firstly, the heart of this project lies in our association with the armed forces. Plymouth is a service city and it was important to recognise this by gifting the land and aiding financially in the form of a capital grant to provide additional local housing.
“But it also shows what can happen when multiple agencies pull together. From the very beginning, the Nelson Project has been a partnership, with every party bringing with them their expertise and guidance. I’m delighted to see it complete.”
Paul Crawford, DCH Chief Executive said: “This project is one we are immensely proud to be part of.
“The real difference this has made to people’s lives is what our work is all about. I sincerely hope the people who’ve worked really hard to make this happen can now sit back and enjoy their new home.”
Alex South Project Manager at the Community Self Build Agency said: “The path to recovery for most homeless is long and turbulent with ups and downs along the way however for a homeless veteran add in the issues of self-pride and a will to achieve on their own and not to become a burden.
“The CSBA help to train, motivate and teach the self-builders that actually they are as just as much a part of the community as everyone else.
“Through the Nelson Project we have supported, nurtured and grown 12 homeless and in housing need veterans into trained, employed or looking for work, full of self-belief individuals who have all been a success with their individual paths of recovery.
“They now all fully believe they have a future due to the project they have been part of and this has only been achievable with the guidance and help from CSBA, DCH, Plymouth City Council, HCA and the contractor Interserve.”