A formerly homeless veteran has hung up Christmas decorations for the first time in 14 years after finally finding a place to call home.
For more than a decade, Bobby Jones has either been homeless or moved from one private let to another.
The 53-year-old’s unstable living situation started after he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) upon returning from tours in theatres of war.
He served in Bosnia, did two tours of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and a tour of Iraq in 1991 – where three of his friends were killed in a friendly fire incident by a US A-10 aircraft.
He was diagnosed with PTSD following a stint in Bosnia in 1995.
Mr Jones pushed his family away, and his marriage broke down as he struggled to come to terms with the things he had witnessed.
Over the last ten years, he experienced homelessness four times – sleeping in his car, occasionally sofa surfing or living in hostels.
After suffering many trials and working through his PTSD, he finally has a place to call home for Christmas after moving to Irvine in September.
“Being in one place is a big relief for me. I feel much more at ease now,” Mr Jones said.
“I wasn’t settled before, I was always moving. I feel I’m not going to be thrown out of my home, the landlord’s not going to sell it.”
He lives with his two Yorkshire terriers and is looking forward to watching a film or two on Christmas Day, with his 23-year-old son coming to see him and “perhaps having a steak”.
He is one of 11 veterans given a home by Riverside Scotland, as part of a social housing development.
The Tarryholme development contains 77 properties, more than 10% of which have been allocated to veterans.
John Canavan-Daly, 45, who left his role as a corporal in the Royal Logistics Corps 13 years ago, moved into the development four weeks ago.
“This place is life changing,” he said. “It’s like all my Christmases come at once. I feel safe here.”
Although married when he came out of the army, Mr Canavan-Daly divorced ten years ago, and since then has lived in a caravan and several privately rented homes.
He now lives in his Tarryholme bungalow with his sons, aged five and 17.
Veterans First Point, which works with Riverside Scotland, alerted both veterans to the new homes being built in 2021 and asked if they were interested.
Mr Canavan-Daly said when he heard the news he was “absolutely blown away”.
“I pretty much broke down there and then,” he said. “I couldn’t believe someone was offering me that.”
“I haven’t really enjoyed Christmas since I got divorced. But now I’m here with my boys and it’s going to be fantastic.”
On Christmas Day, the dad-of-two is hoping to be “smiling and listening to Christmas songs”.
“As an organisation, we are aware that there are often insufficient housing options for people who have been discharged from the Armed Forces, and a lack of sustainable support to address the needs of these households,” said Heather Anderson, head of service delivery and veterans lead at Riverside Scotland.
She added: “Our partnership with Veterans First Point provides a much-needed combination of secure and suitable housing, alongside support to address any mental, physical, emotional, and tenancy related needs for veterans and their families, for as long as it is needed.
“We are so delighted to see our veteran customers happy and settled in their new homes and able to start the next chapter of their lives secure in the knowledge they have a permanent home.”