14 May

One of the things that people who are homeless  say they miss, is having somewhere safe to be. Often a back to a shop doorway is the best they can find, sometimes they'll be able to get in to a shelter, or someone will give them a tent. 

Seeing tents pitched in the trees and bushes along  river banks and towpaths was one of the things which made me realise how many ex forces people lived rough, how much they were drawn to water, and how lucky I was to have not only a narrowboat but a home as well. 

So seeing that post by The Forces Veterans Afloat Charitable Trust founder, Andrew Flint, suggesting finding an abandoned boat and doing it up for a homeless veteran, struck a chord with me and I offered to help. We weren't a charitable trust then. Originally we were just a bunch of people commenting on a Facebook page.

 As I write, we have been a charitable trust officially about a week. We realised about 6 months ago that the original project had got way bigger than we'd bargained for. We needed to become something more official, have a "safe mooring" for the organisation, if you like. We are an unregistered Charitable Trust at present - we have Trustees, who have signed our constitution - and that gives us a safe, official mooring for the group. 

Why aren't we a registered charity? Money, is the simple answer. I had no idea until we started looking in to it, that you need a guaranteed income of more than 5k to register. We don't have that - yet - but hopefully next year, we will. We've also had a bit of a name change - the original name  was The Forces Vets Afloat Project. We had no more ambition than to restore one boat. Now we have 6. We lengthened the name to "Veterans" because some people remarked that they didn't know the military had so many animals that they needed vets! They have, and they do - but that's not our remit. 

What we want to do is offer a safe mooring to veterans who would benefit from shelter but can't or won't do well in bricks and mortar. How are we going to choose who to put in our boats? There are plenty of candidates out there. We have two essential criteria - a person must be homeless, and they must come to us via a recognised charity, who will continue to support them. 

There are always going to be more people than we have boats, boats are always going to take longer to get in to service than we hope, the only person who finished a boat on time was Noah! But if we can give one person a safe harbour, change one person's life for the better, set one on the road health, more will follow, and we'll be for filling our motto, "Keeping Heads Above Water".  

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