By Kris Jepson
Exclusive: A new veterans emergency hub is to officially open in Sunderland on Monday to mark Remembrance Day.
The ERV - named after the military term 'Emergency Rendezvous' - is a "one stop shop" for veterans in need of support for a myriad of social issues.
The building, which is run by Veterans In Crisis Sunderland, will provide a holistic service catering for every possible issue faced by veterans, including homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse and mental health services.
Watch @krisjepson's report here:
Meeting on Monday, a number of veterans took part in a drop-in session at the venue on Roker Avenue, Sunderland.
Former rifleman, Steve Hope, who served in the 1st Battalion Light Infantry, told ITV News "the best thing that’s ever happened to me personally. There’ll all one family, everybody in here. We all look after each other."
Sam Neil, who was a weapons engineer in the Royal Navy, said "you always come away feeling so much happier and feeling better in yourself. It’s just because you’ve had that, you’ve had a big crack on with your friends and, you know, it does make you feel better."
Former corporal in the Royal Engineers, Michael Roper, said "It’s just knowing that they’re there at the end of a phone and the art club is fantastic, you know, we made a load of poppies last week."
Amanda Wadey, who served in the Royal Logistic Corps as a private, said "sometimes I can come in at 9 O’Clock in the morning, if I’ve had a restless night. It’s better than sitting in the house, looking at the four walls and your mind is just going overtime."
Sunderland is a large recruitment ground for the military and with around 20,000 veterans living in the area, Ger Fowler of Veterans In Crisis Sunderland felt there was a need for this service, which he says is the first of its kind in the country.
He told ITV News the organisation, which is funded partly by the local NHS CCG, fundraising and selling of merchandise, has around 40 champions operating in doctors surgeries, providing support to veterans.
He also said new emergency accommodation at the ERV would provide shelter to a family of four for 48 hours, if any veterans become homeless.
If a professional like the police or someone had a veteran, it was the middle of the night and they didn’t know what to do to them, we’ve got a special number they can phone. We can come down, we will sit with them, so they can sober up or get straight from whatever drugs they’ve been taking or just speak to them until the mental health professional can talk to them, because sending them to A&E to sit in a waiting room is a waste of time and people’s money.
The ERV will not just cater for the obvious veteran social issues, like substance abuse, homelessness and PTSD, but other issues too.
Pam Maddocks, who served in the Royal Navy, lost her husband and started having suicidal thoughts.
She told ITV News the service "saved" her life.
I lost my husband. I didn’t have PTSD. Mine was bereavement and loneliness. I had a pain in my heart that wouldn’t leave me and I couldn’t move on and I’ve had a couple of treatments and even my family noticed how different it is.