Army veteran who is ‘homeless by choice’ says being outside helps with PTSD

A homeless former Royal Marine Commando has revealed how living in a makeshift shelter helps him with his PTSD.

The veteran, named Chris, says voluntarily leaving home comforts and living in a Belfast street has done wonders for his mental health.

Chris, who was a Royal Marine Commando for 24 years, told Belfast Live he prefers the "noise and confusion" of being outside.

And he said locals had been very supportive since he set up home with his dog Sasha three months ago.

He told Belfast Live: “I have PTSD but if I start taking the medication it’s going to change me into someone I am not – I would rather do this.

“I don’t like being indoors, I really don’t like being enclosed. I would rather noise, confusion, meeting people and making them laugh and putting a smile on their faces.

“I like the noise and I can sleep better with the noise.

“If I am in a room on my own there is too much going on in my head.”

Chris, who has now been homeless for seven years, said the Royal Marines were supportive following his PTSD diagnosis and did offer help.

But added: “I don’t want to talk to someone who is reading out of a book, I’d rather to talk to someone who has been through it themselves.”

Now he spends his days running, walking his eight-month-old dog and chatting with passersby before helping clubbers to get home.

“I am that well known I am not lonely,” he added.

“Belfast people are very nice, genuine people, and when they see someone sitting on the street who is not begging, doesn’t ask for anything and helps out people, they have time for them.

“I have got a table and chairs from a local business and people come down and chat to me.

“I am very well looked after. I get my phone charged in Frangos, I get my food in Frangos and Wok-a-Moley, the bouncers in Lavery’s keep an eye on my stuff if I want to go for a walk.

“Out here I like it, I can sleep better.

The veteran said he doesn’t claim benefits either, adding: “I have a pension.

"I don’t sign on, but if a friend walks past and needs their house painted or their garden done I’ll do it for them.”

Former Army officer and Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has long campaigned for better support for veterans.

He said: “There are people in Northern Ireland who served in the military who are now going through a mental health crisis and because of their security situations and their heightened awareness of PTSD, they are finding it hard to access help.

“That is why the UK government must put in bespoke measures in Northern Ireland, directed and funded by Westminster to deal with the ever increasing mental health problem of veterans in Northern Ireland."

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