Graeme is 51 and resident of Whitefoord House. This is his story.
Graeme joined the Army Catering Corps in 1978 and in 1980 completed his Airborne Training enabling to serve with Airborne units.
After several operational tours in Northern Ireland he left the Army in 1992 as he did not want to go back there and his wife was pregnant with their first child. He went on to have a number of civilian jobs including head chef at an Agricultural College and also joined the TA.
When his marriage broke down in 1997 he returned to Full Time Reserve Service, partly as he was homeless, and returned to Northern Ireland for 3 back to back tours. At the end of this period he returned to Edinburgh in 1999 with £12,000 in his pocket but spent it all in 6 weeks and found himself homeless once more. He found out about Whitefoord House and when he arrived was the youngest person there at 38 years old. He stayed for a year at Whitefoord House and left when he found a job in security and a new partner.
Having been diagnosed with mouth cancer Graeme gave up drinking for 6 years but when his relationship broke down he turned to alcohol once more.
Graeme once again became homeless, he was troubled with nightmares from his time in Northern Ireland and suffered the repeated blows of losing both his parents in one year, his job and his house. He formulated a plan: to take out a £3,000 loan, spend it all on drink and then commit suicide. His only quandary was how he was going to take his life but before he had decided, he bumped into a member of staff from Whitefoord House. He was persuaded to go back to Whitefoord House, although at first he felt it was a backward step having been there 15 years earlier.
But this time he says that Whitefoord House is completely different, with a huge amount of support on offer. ‘Everyone from the cleaners to the manager wants to help’ he says. He is particularly thankful for
the help from his Support Officer who ‘did everything they could possibly do’, including assistance with employment, his health, accommodation and even getting his car back. He reached rock bottom once more when his daughter tragically died in a car accident, but with support from the staff and other residents at Whitefoord House he has carried on.
Graeme has only been at Whitefoord House a few months but already has a new job and is about to move into his own flat. He still has challenges to face but is emphatic about what SVR has meant to him: ‘If I hadn’t come here there is absolutely no doubt, I would be dead.’