Couple battling illness say they’ve been left out in the cold by housing chiefs

Homeless Richard and Katrina Martin, of Hemel Hempstead.
Homeless Richard and Katrina Martin, of Hemel Hempstead.

A couple who are both battling serious illness say they have been left out on the streets by council housing chiefs.

Richard and Katrina Martin found themselves without a roof over their heads after poor health meant they fell just two months behind on payments at their privately rented home in Burns Drive, Hemel Hempstead.

Richard, a hospital porter until failing health meant he lost his job, is recovering from surgery to remove half of his left lung after doctors discovered a benign lump.

His wife – a care worker for handicapped people – has just been diagnosed with head and neck cancer and is awaiting the outcome of test results to discover what treatment she will need.

They were initially put up in the Travelodge and a guest house in Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town by Dacorum Borough Council but have since been told to find their own accommodation.

It means the desperate couple have been forced to split up. Richard is staying at the emergency night shelter run by homeless charity DENS and Katrina is sofa-surfing with family and friends.

Richard, 43, said: “Dacorum Borough Council are not willing to help us at all. I think it is completely and utterly wrong.”

Katrina is currently only able to eat high calorie soft foods and it is expected that treatment to combat her cancer will leave her needing reconstructive surgery on her jaw, as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

She is currently signed off sick from work but her employers at Herts County Council say they will keep her job open for when she is well enough to return.

Richard, who has lived in privately rented accommodation within Hemel Hempstead for the last 10 years, said: “We are both vulnerable people.

“This is the first time that we have ever been put in this position.

“It has split up a married couple at a time when we should be together with our families coming to us to give their support.

“I think it is disgusting. I’m just asking for a bedsit. We are vulnerable people, we should be housed.”

Although the council will not comment on the details of individual cases a spokesman said: “If we find there is no duty to provide permanent rehousing, such as in the case where a household has been deemed intentionally homeless, the household will receive notice to vacate temporary accommodation and we will refer them to Herts County Council (adult or children’s services).

“Intentional homelessness would be where the tenant’s action or inaction has led to them becoming homeless, such as by breaching the terms of their lease, or eviction because of preventable rent arrears.”

Under the rules those deemed to have made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’ will have their housing application deferred for 12 months. During this time applicants are unable to bid for accommodation.