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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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The royal hostel visit

May 18 2009
Milroy: Milroy:
It isn‘t often that you get The Princes of Wales visiting your room Residents of the Stepney-based New Belvedere House met with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales last month as part of the Ex-Service Fellowship Centre's (EFC) 75th anniversary celebrations. The Royal's visit to the hostel of the EFC was part of a longterm commitment the Prince has demonstrated towards understanding the difficulties those who have served in the military face on joining the civilian world. Dr Hugh Milroy, chief executive of the EFC, said: "I have known for a long time that the Prince of Wales has been particularly interested in this subject. I have been involved in answering questions for him for a long time, and so it was natural on our 75th anniversary to invite him along." Dr Milroy first met Prince Charles on the matter when HRH called a meeting a Highgrove. At that time, Dr Milroy worked for the Ministry of Defence; however, he had already begun his work into the reasons ex-servicemen and women fail to keep permanent accommodation. "The Prince has kept a very close tab on us ever since," says Dr Milroy. "He wants to keep his finger on the pulse." He added: "I thought overall it had a profound impact on morale, both for the staff and the residents. For someone of his importance to come along, pay attention and spend time with people, it was impressive, and it was great to see he genuinely cared. "As well as that, the Prince can raise the profile of the people here, and make sure that the ex-service community has a voice. He is bringing it to people's notice," he said. Dr Milroy said he hoped the relationship would continue. "We will make sure he is made aware of what we are doing, and the initiatives we are doing in this field. I hope he will continue to have a close interest in our work." Dr Milroy added: "Whether anyone likes it or not, ex-service homelessness is a fact and it will continue. The more people I can tell about what we do, the more outreach and practical advice we get, the better. "I want to get people off the streets as quickly as possible." The 57-bed hostel has a high occupancy rate - on the day of the visit, 52 of the beds were taken, and last year, more than 70 people were 'reintegrated' - in other words, set up with their own home, in many cases - nearby to the centre. The Prince met three current residents of the hostel in their rooms, for a one-to-one chat. Dr Milroy said the Prince had tried to gain a good insight into what life was like for the residents. "The guys he chatted with really wanted to speak to him, and it was of great comfort to them," he added. For some, it was a chance to renew an acquaintance they had made while in the services, but for others it was a brand new opportunity. Karl Noble, 33, who served for 10 years with the Royal Engineers in Ireland, Bosnia and Afghanistan, told the Prince he had received support from the Fellowship in contacting employment agencies and getting treatment for stress and depression. Prior to arriving at the hostel seven months ago, Mr Noble had spent six weeks living on the streets after he separated from his wife. Nick Eccles, who had met the Prince previously when serving, explained that this was the second time he had been a resident of the hostel, after being evicted for bringing alcohol on the premises. He applauded the sense of spirit in the centre, and drew particular attention to head of staff Pat O'Connor, who was recently awarded an MBE. The Prince also met former residents, including three who have set up their own business. Scott McKenzie, John Smith and Dalton Miller recently started a rickshaw business in the West End, making nearly ¬¨¬£400 after its first trial week. Mr McKenzie said the Prince congratulated them for their efforts after he was told that the three men developed their plans while living in the hostel. Mr McKenzie said: "There are a lot of guys here who have a lot of free time. We bought the two bikes and did them up and it seems to be working out well. It's keeping us busy." Prince Charles donated a signed photograph of him in military uniform to the centre. He currently holds the ranks of Admiral in the Royal Navy, General in the Army, and Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force. He is also a patron to a number of charities and organisations which help to look after the welfare of soldiers and their families, including the Airborne Forces Security Fund, War Widows, Combat Stress, British Forces Foundation, Royal Naval Benevolent Trust and the White Ensign Association.