HOMELINK has recently helped several clients move out of inadequately heated and insulated static caravans.
Many people have turned to caravan living in the face of soaring rents in the South East. While it may seem like a viable solution in the summer months, during the winter life in a poorly heated caravan can be difficult and even dangerous.
John*, 34, is one of those who found himself living in a dilapidated static caravan, after the death of his parents caused him mental health difficulties. No longer able to work regularly, it was the only place he could afford to rent but it was unsuitable for his two children to come and stay at weekends.
‘It was horrible – very run down,’ says John. ‘There was frost on the inside of the caravan and it only had a tiny gas heater. I didn’t have any other options so I took it, but it meant I couldn’t have my kids over.’
John was referred to HOMELINK and quickly approved for an interest-free loan to cover a deposit on a rental property, while Lewes District Council provided him with the rent in advance. He now lives in a one-bedroom flat in Newhaven with a sofa bed so that his children can stay overnight.
‘I had lost the time with my kids, but now I’m in the flat they love coming to stay,’ he says. ‘The guys at HOMELINK gave me hope when I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel. Getting the loan gave me the drive to get back on my feet and go out and find a flat.’
HOMELINK also assisted Jane*, 60, who has mental health issues and had moved into a caravan after suffering harassment in a shared house.
‘The caravan cost £950 a month – it was an awful lot of money for not very much, especially without housing benefit, and a lot of the time I didn’t have enough money left for food,’ she says.
‘It was absolutely freezing throughout the winter. I put a mattress down on the floor and me and my dogs spent as much time as we could cuddled up on it. A woman in a camper van nearby nearly froze to death one night. There were no toilet facilities as the toilets had frozen.’
After receiving a loan for a rental deposit from HOMELINK, as well as vouchers to cover the cost of essential kitchen items, Jane was able to move into a one-bedroom flat.
‘It was such a wonderful feeling to be in my own home finally and to feel safe,’ she says. ‘I was so happy, I cried and cried.’
But Jane still thinks about those she left behind at the caravan site.
‘People don’t realise there are lots of these places around,’ she says. ‘Because people are desperate, they’ll take them.’
To help HOMELINK move more people like John and Jane into proper homes this winter, please consider making a donation to our Christmas Appeal.
*Names changed to protect identities