Tragic ex-soldier Wayne Green is the human face of a scandal that shames the nation this Christmas.
The homeless Army veteran was found dead in a pal’s flat after a suspected suicide last month after spending over a year sofa-surfing.
The 29-year-old was trying to rebuild his life after a medical discharge over mental health issues.
And as Wayne’s family tell the People how he had no help from the Army after leaving and felt “lost”, we can reveal up to 35,000 veterans could be homeless this Christmas.
Thousands will spend the festive season sleeping rough – but many more will be sofa surfing or staying in B&Bs and hostels.
Wayne’s father, Wayne Snr, said: “All he wanted was his own little place but after he left he received no help from the Army.”
Wayne, who was in the Duke of Lancaster regiment and based at Catterick, died on November 17 – 19 months after he left the Army. An inquest is set for next June.
Wayne Snr said his son worked putting up pylons before realising his dream of signing up in 2017.
The 52-year-old, of Bolton, Lancs, said: “He’d always wanted to join. But sadly, it didn’t work out and he was medically discharged. He came home and I don’t think he could accept he’d left.
“We saw him going down and down. We did everything we could to help. But he had his pride and felt he was a burden. He didn’t have his own place, he was sofa surfing. He’d never speak about his time in the Army, we could never get to the bottom of it. But after he left he seemed lost.
“There should be more support. But it seems one day you’re in, the next you’re out, and you become someone else’s problem.”
Wayne was helped by the Bolton Armed Forces Centre for Veterans, run by Cait Smith and Scott Hawtrey. His dad said: “He had nothing from the Army, that’s why he came here.”
Scott said: “We helped with temporary accommodation but he was at the end of his tether.”
Cait added: “The Government and other authorities should do more. That’s why we’re here, picking up the pieces. We saw Wayne the Friday before he died and he was in high spirits. But he was bouncing between places and it was hard to get the support.”
Another veteran helped by the charity is Barry Pickard, 59, who served in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in the late 70s and early 80s.
He found himself homeless four years ago after family bereavements, a divorce and alcohol issues.
He said: “I was living rough, sleeping in doorways and one night on a compost heap because it was warm. It was hard to get help but I found this place.
“The money should be made available to help ex-forces. You fight for your country, then they don’t offer the support.”
Wayne’s death followed that of Darren Greenfield, 47, who was with the Royal Tank Regiment.
He ended up begging in his khakis and was found dead on an Edinburgh street last December.
And in 2015, a veteran of 82 known only as George was found dead in his sleeping bag hours after being evicted from a Manchester squat. Shelter estimates 350,000 people are without a home in the UK and Once, We Were Soldiers reckons up to 10 per cent are ex-forces personnel.
Veteran Fergus Kenny, a caseworker for the charity, said: “The oldest person we have helped was a veteran in his 60s who had slept in his car for 10 years.
“Homelessness amongst veterans is a huge hidden problem.” But the Ministry of Defence believes the number of homeless veterans is closer to four per cent of the national total.
Charity Stoll, which provides 250 rental homes for ex-military personnel, said local councils should observe the Armed Forces Covenant and do more.
It also said troops who leave while young often struggle as they are not entitled to resettlement courses.
One veteran helped by Stoll is Terry Wood, 57, of the Parachute Regiment. He said: “After I left I had a good job, earning over £100,000 a year.
"Then my marriage fell apart. I lost my home and spent 18 months living rough and sleeping in my car. I found myself in a dark place and was close to suicide
“A former colleague put me in touch with Stoll and they found me somewhere. I was diagnosed with PTSD. Slowly, I began to rebuild my life. Things are now good. I have started my own company, remarried and have a son. No one is immune from being homeless.”
Charity Soldiers off the Streets said the youngest veteran it has dealt with was 18 and the oldest 97. Groups say cuts have made the problem worse, with 30,000 troops axed since 2010.
Homeless numbers have also soared since the Government outlined its duty to serving and former personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant in 2011.
It states veterans “should have priority status in applying for government-sponsored affordable housing”.
But Ian Belcher, who joined the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment at 18, found the Covenant was no help. After leaving, he became a lorry driver.
But he said: “I was becoming aggressive and drinking. I got in trouble for assaulting a police officer while drunk and was lucky not to go to prison.”
Ian, 53, rejoined the Army as a driver in 2007, then his relationship fell apart.
“When I left again in 2010, I realised I had nothing – just a telly and the clothes on my back. I had to sleep in my car. I had a tent and I would drive to a field and sleep. I approached my local council but they wouldn’t help and said there were more urgent cases.”
After 10 months, Ian was able to rent a room – but he had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with severe PTSD.
His life was turned around after Stoll offered him a one-bed flat.
Ian said: “Being homeless is one of the worst things that can happen.
“No veteran should end up on the streets after serving their country.”
A Government spokesman said: “We are investing £1billion to tackle homelessness, including £1million for veterans at risk of sleeping rough in London.”
If you need to speak to someone, Samaritans are available 24/7 by calling 116 123 or by emailing email@example.com