Mr Mercer joined 12 homeless veterans who have helped build the homes they now live in as they celebrated at a housewarming party on Friday 6 October.
The Nelson Project self-build scheme has not only provided a home, it has played a pivotal role in rebuilding lives. The veterans have all moved in to their flats and are finally able to relax after more than a year of hard work building the 24-home site which includes 12 self-build homes for ex-service personnel and 12 mixed use affordable homes, including supported housing.
Having been supportive of the scheme since its infancy, Johnny was pleased to join all the residents and guests at the housewarming celebration.
The project came about after the Community Self Build Agency and DCH recognised the need to support the armed forces community into accessing the homes and transitional support and skills they sometimes require to secure long term employment after service. They worked in conjunction with Plymouth City Council to bring the project to fruition.
Former soldier John Manuel said when he first heard about the scheme, he had been living in a hostel for four months after having a heart attack. “I’ve met some great people” he 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.”
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 them 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.
Johnny Mercer MP said:
“Since I first heard about this project, I have been keeping a close eye on its development. Having a safe and secure home is something we all deserve, none more so than veterans who for whatever reason have struggled in the transition back to civilian life. In a city like Plymouth with its great military tradition, it is vital we do all we can to provide for our veterans. Schemes like this go some way to do this.
“Having visited twice during the construction phase, it was great to be able to join the celebration now the project has been completed. I look forward to seeing many others both in Plymouth and around the country.”