Bright future in store for Reboot UK veteran
01 Feb 2018
Ross Wilkinson, an army veteran, has been overcoming alcoholism and drug addiction and is getting his life back on track by volunteering at IT classes in his social housing accommodation.
About 4 years ago Ross moved into Brims House Veteran, social housing provided by the charity Changing Lives that gives support and accommodation to ex-military who are in danger of becoming homeless.
Changing Lives is working with the charity Homeless Link as part of Good Things Foundation’s Reboot UK project which aims to test new models of supporting people in poverty to improve their health and wellbeing through digital technology.
“I come from a background of drug and alcohol addiction,” explains 39-year-old Ross. “I also have Asperger’s, though I didn’t find out about that until around three years ago.
“When I first came to Brim’s House, it made me realise that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life and I needed to make some serious changes. I was unemployed with no prospect of finding work and I was estranged from my family, including my five-year-old little boy.”
Ross’ drug and alcohol addiction started at a young age, triggered by his parents' separation, but he still managed to follow in his family’s footsteps and join the army.
“My dad’s ex-army - he was in for about nine years,” explains Ross. “When I was younger, I always remember him being in the army. My uncle and my grandad were in the military too.”
Getting back on track
Following his time in the army, Ross had a mental health breakdown.
He says: “When I had the breakdown it really knocked me and I found it hard to get back out there and do something worthwhile. My biggest challenge was my confidence. When I left the army I was a bit lost and didn’t know what to do. I was just floating around.”
Ross was getting some support but applied to move into Brims House Veteran after several recommendations from others. He says: “At the time I was taking part in another project but it was very intense - I was being drug and alcohol checked every day, which was helpful in the beginning but by this point I wasn’t using or drinking any more. I felt like I needed to branch out and get back on with living again.”
At Brim’s House Veteran, Ross started taking part in the IT classes that were part of Reboot UK, and his confidence began to come back. He’s now progressed to volunteering in the classes, as well as doing an Access course in Nursing.
He says: “I was interested in social work when I left school and in my 20s I was a youth worker so was well on my way to doing that. Unfortunately, it was cut short when I fell into drugs and alcohol. Now I’m doing my Nursing course and I feel like I’m picking up where I left off all those years ago.
“I decided to volunteer to get some experience. I’m quite good with computers and technology and because I’ve been through the system of rehabs and hostels, I can relate to the other residents I’m supporting. I wanted to pass on my skills and experience.”
Looking to the future
As part of Reboot UK, Ross helps people of different ages and from different walks of life.
He says: “I get so much out of it and find it enjoyable. It gives me confidence. I haven’t been working for a long time now, so for me it’s dipping my toe back in the water.”
Ross is now looking towards a bright future and completing his Nursing course. He hopes it will lead on to employment, so he can support his family - including a new baby on the way.
He says: “I was seriously at risk of drinking again before I got involved with Reboot. Brim’s House isn’t an abstinence-based house, so there are people here drinking. I could have fallen back in with that but I didn’t.
“I hope my story will help people and I’d encourage anyone to get involved with this project or a similar project because you never really know what you can achieve until you do. A lot of people are worried about stepping in and getting into the classroom environment but it’s not so scary once you get there.
“I’m starting to see light in my future. I was so unsure about things before getting involved in this project and about getting back into society. Reboot UK has definitely made me feel better.”