Downing Street honour for Burnley based project committed to helping ex veterans across Lancashire

A project launched in Burnley, to help ex veterans get back on their feet, has been held up as a model of 'best practice' for reducing homelessness in a special presentation at Downing Street.

Healthier Heroes was one of several projects showcased at Number 10. And for Andy Powel,l the project's founder, it was a moment of great pride.

"I felt so proud to see that what we have achieved in a relatively short time is being held up as a model for others to follow,," said Andy.

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Offering a range of services, including counselling and practical advice to help ex vets learn skills to help them live independently and find a job, the charity, which opened just 10 months ago, has gone from strength to strength with Andy receiving referrals daily from across the county.

Healthier Heroes' founder Andy Powell at 10, Downing Street

Using the mantra 'Unite as one, inspire each other, believe anything is possible' Healthier Heroes was established in Wigan two years ago but Andrew always hoped he could bring the project to his hometown.

That dream came true and the Burnley based Healthier Heroes has become the flagship for the project across Lancashire.

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One of the trustees of Healthier Heroes is Amy Varle, a homelessness campaigner from Greater Manchester.

She was awarded a prestigious grant to help tackle homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic and is now launching a digital solution to address the issue at scale across Britain.

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Andy and Rio Powell (centre front) with the team at Healthier Heroes in Burnley

Amy’s work has been supported by the Churchill Fellowship since she was awarded a travelling fellowship in 2016, which allowed her to conduct an international field study and later publish a white paper of policy recommendations.

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In 2020, Amy aligned a digital ‘mastermind’ of professionals who could incubate best practice models for reducing homelessness across the country.

Amy predicts the digital membership platform – which she likens to ‘Uber for Homelessness’ - will help tens of thousands of people in crisis across the country as it rolls out over the next two years.

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The Downing Street presentation was attended by senior policy and decision makers, social investment funders, organisations such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Big Issue and HMP Probation Service, as well as stakeholders, investors, developers, advisors, charitable service providers like Healthier Heroes and ex-homeless residents too.

Andy (back left) with homelessness campaigner Amy Varle (back right) with other representatives at Downing Street
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The Downing Street honour comes hot on the heels of the project winning £40,000 from the National Lottery's community fund. The money will allow Healthier Heroes to employ two outreach workers to help with the ever-increasing number of people in the community who need its help that don’t necessarily need housing.

The cash has also allowed the purchase of a minibus, a vital part of the service because it means they can get service users out to pursue hobbies such as fishing and football, and pick also up people in the community who can’t get to appointments.

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Andrew's wife Rio, who is the service delivery director at Healthier Heroes, said: “It has helped us massively - we couldn’t do that without this funding.

"It’s going to have a huge impact in the armed forces community and within the wider community as well, and

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we’re extremely grateful.”

Housed in a four-storey grade II listed building in Elizabeth Street it was named Bancroft House in honour of

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Andrew’s friend and fellow veteran, Lance Corporal Jordan Dean Bancroft who died in action in 2010.

Since its opened the building has been full to capacity with all rooms being occupied by veterans, further highlighting the importance of the group’s work in the area.

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Andy, an ex soldier himself, said: “We opened the project during the pandemic and within three weeks we filled 21 empty beds full of veterans that found themselves homeless for many different reasons.

"We have been full ever since, while also managing a waiting list of those requiring our service and support. We are seeing an increase in demand for our service each week with many referrals coming in all the time from other

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veteran groups, various NHS trusts from A and E to mental health wards, police, ambulance services and local authorities.”

Fundraising ventures included a star studded ball in December and the project is also opening its own shop in Burnley town centre soon selling upcycled furniture.