A charity that supports homeless veterans from across North Wales is helping a former soldier rebuild his life after his family lost their farm and he ended up sleeping rough.
Alabaré, which runs three homes in Conwy and a further six across South Wales as well as in the south of England, has launched Field Kitchen, a wood-fired pizzeria in a converted horsebox, to raise funds and re-skill some of its clients.
The venture is being supported by the UK’s biggest container self-storage company, Denbigh-based Lock Stock, which has 22 storage parks across North Wales and the borders, and is aimed at supporting over 30 former servicemen each year back into accommodation and employment.
Former Royal Signals Regiment soldier Will Harper – not his real name – spent months sleeping rough in his vehicle with his faithful dog, Harry, after the family farm he had helped fund had to be sold to pay off debts.
He said: “I came out of the Army to try and save the farm and I started a welding business there but unfortunately they had piled up debts and we lost the farm and I was left homeless, sleeping rough in the pick-up.
“I spent six months living like that. I’d try to find somewhere really quiet in the woods because they close all the public toilets at 5pm which means there’s nowhere else to go – it was just lucky I had a vehicle.
“Luckily, I was put in touch with Alabaré and they’ve been able to help me. Having somewhere stable to live and now they’ve put me in touch with Cais which supports homeless people to get back into employment.
“I grew up on a farm and am able to turn my hand to most things and I ran a steel fabricating business for a while but when we lost the farm things began to unravel.
“It’s a horrible situation to be in and very lonely but I feel I’m getting back on track again now.
“Alabaré have provided me with a roof over my head, a bed and cleaning and cooking facilities – things everyone takes for granted – but just having someone to talk to and activities to do makes such a difference.”
Lock Stock North West Wales Sites Manager Tony Jones said: “Alabaré do some fantastic work with Veterans who can find it hard to adjust to life back on civvy street or find circumstances stacked against them like David.
“This is a great idea to run a mobile pizzeria with a proper wood-burning oven and they turn out great pizzas as well.
“Things can be tough for charities in these difficult times so this is a great way to raise funds and perhaps give some of their clients an opportunity to retrain as well.”
Alabaré Social Enterprise Manager Barbara Salerno said: “We are building up the number of venues where we go and can even do weddings and birthday parties as well.
“We reply very heavily on donations and we’re grateful to Lock Stock Self-Storage for their support, it’s that kind of generosity that helps us provide these important services.
“Our Field Kitchen social enterprise scheme will employ veterans to prepare, cook and serve food, as well as providing them with training in catering and customer care skills.”
The charity is keen to hear from more venues which would like them to pay a visit and they can be contacted on https://www.facebook.com/AlabaréFieldKitchen/ or on http://www.alabare.co.uk/home/field-kitchen/alabaré-social-enterprises
Alabaré supports over 300 Veterans a year into their own accommodation through their homes in the south west of England and in Wales and Andy Jones, who manages three Homes for Veterans homes in North Wales, said: “Last year because of Covid many homeless people were put up in hotels but we’re expecting more demand again in the coming months.
“We have 19 beds across our three homes in North Wales with a further six homes across South Wales, but homelessness is a problem all across the country and we often deal with issues resulting from relationship breakdown, unemployment, mental health concerns, gambling and substance abuse.
“Some of it is down to people trying to adjust after coming out of the Forces but we try to help them into work as well as putting a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep in.
“We can accommodate over 30 people every year here in North Wales. This year specifically we are seeing more relationship breakdowns, perhaps in part because the pandemic lockdown has put pressure on couples.”
Lock Stock, founded in Denbigh in 1999, is the UK’s largest containerised storage company with over 3,000 units providing over four million cubic feet of space at 22 parks across North and Mid Wales and the border counties.
Their existing sites stretch from Holyhead and along the North Wales coast at Caernarfon, Bangor, Llandudno and Rhyl, on the Dee at Flint, Saltney, Deeside, Sandycroft and inland at Denbigh, Mold, Wrexham and Newtown in Powys, and at Oswestry and Shrewsbury in Shropshire.
The company also specialise in the off-site hire of containers such which can be delivered by their specialist lorry, sizes range from 10-feet long up through 20-footers to 40-foot units, all eight feet high and eight feet wide, from 640 to 2,560 in cubic feet in volume.
For information about Lock Stock Self Storage including the off-site container hire’s contact them on 01745 817178 or go to https://lockstock.biz/