A FORMER soldier is looking to house veterans and their families as part of a programme to help support those coming out of the military.

Healthier Heroes CIC was established two years ago in Wigan but is now being launched in Burnley thanks to founder and former soldier Andrew Powell, who is from Burnley.

The programme - Unite Inspire Believe - aims to rehome veterans and their families regardless of whether they recently left the army or left a long time ago.

It also supports those who have been in prison, helping them to rebuild their lives and find jobs.

Mr Powell, 39, said: “I joined the military at 16 and became a colour sergeant. When I left I did not have any identity and struggled to find a job and any normality. I know many fall into the same position when they leave the military.”

Healthier Heroes recently bought Elizabeth House on Elizabeth Street, Burnley and plan to provide 24-hour support to those in their care.

Mr Powell travelled the world on tours and also had responsibility for protecting diplomats in Iraq, as a close protection officer.

He left the army in 2013 and took an interest in helping young people with problems at home, before setting up his own organisation to do the same.

He said: “So far, I have homed 500 veterans and their families over the North West, but I want to help more in Burnley.

“Once they leave, usually, there is nobody to help establish them back into society and many employers, especially back then, did not see being in the army as a job with transferable skills.

“When I left, they only helped if you were wounded or sick.

“Because we are a smaller organisation, we can be less intimidating than national ones and can tailor it towards local places.”

Supporting the organisation is 50-year-old Paul Marriott, from Blackburn, who invested his army pension into a four-acre woodland after serving 14 years with the Royal Artillery.

He set up the Bellissima’s Retreat on the outskirts of Preston to support veterans’ mental health by “taking them back to nature”.

Mr Marriott, known as JP, said: “There are veterans who are alive today because this place has saved them.

“Coming here takes veterans back but without the pressure and they can take their time to appreciate their surroundings.”

To find out more visit facebook.com/healthierheroescic