Tam is a former soldier in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers who saw operational service in Northern Ireland, Tam was medically discharged with a war pension after 4 years due to having severely damaged his feet while serving.
After the Army Tam worked as a gardener for 15 years, at one point even working in the grounds at Rosendael. Following the death of his father he became full time carer for his mother for 3 years but feeling that he had lost his sense of identity he decided to move out and was homeless. In his own words Tam ‘hid away’ for 7 months, living rough in countryside where he could not even see any streetlights and sleeping under a bush. He washed in 24 hour restaurants and lived off his £32 per week war pension and by catching pigeons and rabbits.
One day while sleeping he was discovered by a dog and his owner who thought at first he had come across a body. Tam woke to find the police and ambulance service and was taken to hospital having not eaten for a couple of days. He was contacted by a member of staff from the Armed Services Advice Project who referred him to Rosendael where he arrived in February 2015.
Tam says that he was a bag of nerves when he arrived at Rosendael with a long beard and all his belongings in a rucksack. He soon found that the daily routine and relaxed, friendly staff helped him to settle down. At first he would disappear back to the countryside for periods but found that he missed his bed and the welcoming feeling at Rosendael and so always returned. He then lost all of his hair due to alopecia which his doctor told him was due to the huge change in his life and being suddenly much happier. Tam asked his GP if he could prescribe something to make him unhappy again but fortunately his hair has now grown back!
The staff at Rosendael have helped Tam in many ways including getting specialist medical attention for his feet which still cause him constant pain and for which he has specially adapted boots. He was helped to obtain the correct housing benefit and Personal Independence Payments and even to get his Grandfather’s medals (one of the few personal items he kept while living outdoors) repaired and mounted so that he can wear them opposite his own.
Tam is very happy and settled at Rosendael now. He had problems with angry outbursts in the past but is able to control them more now, because he says ‘now he has too much to lose’. He enjoys playing snooker and talking to the older residents and regularly takes part in the gardening group led by Jim, one of Rosendael’s Support Wardens. Tam was told that he would be in a wheelchair due to his feet problems but is still very much walking about ‘due to stubbornness’ he says. Last year he went with other residents and staff to a garden party at Buckingham Palace and he has made good friends with other residents. He likes to help fellow veterans when he can and has taken some on visits to his family, a big difference from when he hid to keep away from all people while he was homeless.
Tam says that Rosendael means the world to him; he has never felt so welcome or so happy. Where would he be without SVR? He smiles, ‘still sleeping in a bush’.