Charity is number 1 for helping service veterans

Choir master Gareth Malone conducts the Military Wives choir, during filming of The Graham Norton Show, at The London Studios, south London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 20, 2011. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Choir master Gareth Malone conducts the Military Wives choir, during filming of The Graham Norton Show, at The London Studios, south London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 20, 2011. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
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A CHARITY boosted by the Military Wives’ number one single is helping hundreds of people in South Yorkshire each year.

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, SSAFA – Forces Help, exists to provide assistance to past and present service personnel and their families who have fallen on hard times.

Along with the Royal British Legion, the organisation is receiving the proceeds of the Christmas number one hit, Wherever You Are, recorded by 100 wives of military personnel serving in Afghanistan.

The singers include Sheffield woman Sarah Hendry, aged 30, from Hillsborough.

One of the people recently helped by SSAFA is Gregg Howells, aged 41, of Manor Park.

Mr Howells spent 18 months in the British Army as a soldier in the early 1990s but was discharged with an injury. He also spent 18 months in the French Foreign Legion.

Despite his short time in the forces, he said he suffered ‘emotional and mental issues’ which caused him problems after he left.

He came to Sheffield in 2007 because of family living nearby in Derbyshire, but lost his job this summer and then had problems paying rent at his home.

Mr Howells said: “I left to travel around Europe and try to find work but there was nothing so I came back to the UK and ended up sleeping rough in Parliament Square in London in September.”

He was offered accommodation through The Salvation Army back in Sheffield and moved north again.

“They found out about my ex service background and put me in touch with SSAFA.

“SSAFA helped by explaining the situation on my behalf to Northern Counties Housing Association which was able to get me my old home back.

“I haven’t yet sorted a new job but I am concentrating on getting fit and want to get back into the military, either through the TA or as a cadet instructor.”

Mr Howells was helped by SSAFA volunteer case worker Stuart Carvell, who is one of eight based in Sheffield and who deals with around 20 cases every year himself alone.

The organisation also has representatives in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Mr Carvell said: “We exist to help anyone who has served at least a day in the forces.

“We put people in touch with service charities to provide funding for everything from children’s clothing to stairlifts. Myself and the other volunteer case workers mostly have service connections – I was in the TA.

“It’s a high point for our organisation that the Military Wives are topping the charts and helping us with some of the proceeds.

“Their success also helps to raise the profile of SSAFA so we can help more people.”