(Pte) Paul Lewis, 38, joined the Parachute Regiment in 1999. He sustained a leg injury during a tour of Iraq which left him unable to parachute and was later diagnosed with PTSD. The father-of-one left the Army in 2007. When Paul was left homeless following a relationship breakdown earlier this year he ended up sleeping in his car but SSAFA was able to find him somewhere to live and furnish it with everything he needed.
Sign up for our email newsletter to get our latest news in your inbox
Paul said: “I got injured in Iraq. I was on a motorbike and there was an explosion. I came off the bike and my leg was snapped right back. Since then I have had six operations. They have taken bone out of my rib cage to put into my leg and I have recently had a knee replacement. They said I would never parachute again. I officially came out in 2007 but prior to that I had spent two years at home recovering. In the end they brought me back to the battalion but they gave me a rubbish job to do and after a year I couldn’t cope with it any more. It wasn’t what I had trained for. I was separated from my friends so I just left and it all went downhill from there.
“A few years later I started having fits and my mental health was suffering. I was assessed and they said I had PTSD. Unfortunately, I really went down the wrong road and no-one could understand what was wrong with me because it wasn’t like me. I fell asleep in the car once and wrote it off because I wasn’t sleeping at night. My brain would be awake all night and I wasn’t getting any rest so I just couldn’t function normally. It got worse and worse.
“No one would help me. I was trying everything but I ended up with nowhere to live. I just didn’t know what to do. I had a storage container with all my stuff in it and I just started living in that for the first week. I had a business mentor and he found out what I was doing and contacted charities. It was so frustrating and then it started getting serious. I was living in my car then and there was nowhere to wash. I just had everything I owned in my car.
“I was homeless for four weeks but as soon as I contacted SSAFA it was sorted within three days. My caseworker David did everything for me. He found me somewhere to live and got everything I needed. I was so thankful. I just couldn’t believe it. When I walked in everything was done. I had another operation two months ago. I have been having ongoing ops for the last nine years and now hopefully that’s it. It’s really hard living on £90 a week. Every week I never have enough money left. I’m going to retrain to be an insurance assessor. I just want to get back to work.”