An ex-soldier left with no choice but to sleep in a friend’s car after becoming homeless when his marriage failed has taken aim at a local authority for not coming to his aid. Lee Butler, a 43-year-old Northern Ireland veteran lived in the capital with his wife before serving in the Army. However, since his return to the North East of England in August 2022, he has been sleeping on sofas or in a car ever since.
Mr Butler, from Wallsend, around five miles east of Newcastle, got in touch with North Tyneside Council to notify them he was homeless and requested to be prioritised for council housing.
But he was told that would not be possible as he was still technically married to his wife and as such could live with her.
The former Royal Artillery serviceman of more than five years told ChronicleLive: “The woman told me she was embarrassed to even say, but that as long as my ex-wife had a tenancy I had somewhere to live so I couldn’t be classed as homeless.
“Do they expect me to live with my ex-wife and her new partner?
“It is absolutely disgusting to treat someone who fought for their country this way.”
Mr Butler was employed in private security and as a bouncer after leaving the army. However, as he is currently unemployed he’s struggling to get enough money together for rented accommodation.
He said: “I have been working as a bouncer but I need to get my licence renewed but I don’t have the money just now – everything just costs money. I can’t even wash my clothes.”
Despite failing to find a home through the council, Mr Butler has been contacted by Armed Forces charity SSAFA – the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association – which has helped him find some temporary accommodation.
The ex-serviceman said: “They have 33 flats in a unit in Byker that are for ex-military. I am grateful I have got something and they are going to help me over the next two years to make sure I am ready to go back to work and help me do that.
“But North Tyneside Council have been no help whatsoever. How could they expect me to live with my ex-wife?”
Peter Mennell, Director of Housing and Property Services, said: “We’re fully committed to supporting armed forces personnel in North Tyneside and, as a council, are proud to have the MOD’s Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award, which represents the highest award available to organisations that support the armed forces community.
“We give priority banding in our housing allocations policy to armed forces or former service personnel when the application is made within five years of discharge, or where there are appropriate medical circumstances. In addition to this we have a dedicated Armed Forces Officer who acts as a single point of contact to support people who currently serve, or have served, in the armed forces and their families.
“While I’m sorry that Mr Butler was not happy with his initial contact with our services, I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work with and support Mr Butler through this and will continue to proactively support him where we can.”