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Tuesday, October 28, 1997 Published at 15:03 GMT


Army recruits homeless

For some, a more constructive life

Army recruitment officers have been touring homeless hostels to try to persuade youngsters to swap a life on the streets for a life in khaki.

The Army is short of almost 5,000 recruits, and the new scheme has been dreamed up by a careers officer, Group Captain Paul Larkman, to try to bridge the gap.

Recruiting officers in Leeds have toured six homeless hostels in the city, offering residents an open day at the Parachute Regiment's barracks at Strensall near York, North Yorkshire.

They will be given firing practice, and invited to try an assault course, as well as the 'paratower' parachute training apparatus.

Not all homeless people will qualify.

'It challenges stereotypes'

"We are not looking to recruit dossers or winos but we are looking for suitably-qualified recruits who would be able to have a good career in the Army but through unfortunate circumstances have ended up in a hostel," said an Army spokesman.

Group Captain Larkman is confident his scheme will succeed.

"Homeless people are often seen as the dross of the community, but there are a lot of young people who have been kicked out of home and deserve another chance."

The forces will even consider those who have a criminal record, despite the Army's tough stance on drugs.

Group Captain Larkman said: "If they have tried cannabis, we can overlook that. If we barred everyone who had tried cannabis, we would have a big problem finding recruits."

The homeless charity Shelter has welcomed the initiative. A spokesman said: "It challenges stereotypes of homeless people by recognising that many have skills and talents to offer employers.

"We hope that this might set an example to other organisations and employers."


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