Former Sunderland soldier lived in Vauxhall Corsa ‘for weeks’ after delay getting new home

An Army veteran says he was left to live in his car for weeks after his plea for help to get a home was dogged by problems.

Friday, 29th March 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 7:28 am
Steve Waites lived in his car while he waited for a house to become available.

Steve Waites says he was left sleeping in his Vauxhall Corsa after the end of a relationship and a struggle to find a place of his own.

The Sunderland postman turned to the County Durham Housing Group for help but said he was left waiting up to eight weeks before he was able to move into a property in Easington Village.

The company said it believed the wait was just more than five weeks before he was given the keys - but said it was sorry things hadn’t gone “as smoothly as we would have liked”.

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In the meantime, Steve lived in his car as it was parked up in Seaham and used the showers at the gym where he trains to keep clean.

The 41-year-old, who served with the Household Cavalry, based in Windsor and Knightsbridge for a decade and left as a lance corporal, has now moved in to his new property, but says the housing organisation left him with a host of decorating and DIY tasks to complete.

He was offered temporary accommodation by support organisations, but as they were in either Middlesbrough or Crook, it would be too far and costly to travel to and from his shifts.

Steve, who served in Bosnia and worked with armoured tanks during his career with the Army, said: “It might be a small Corsa, but it was a roof over my head.

“I’ve had help from a couple of friends, and one was away for a couple of night so I stayed there.

“As I’m ex-Army, I’m used to staying anywhere, but I don’t want to intrude on people and did a lot of sofa surfing.

“Honestly, I’m broke at the minute, I’ve used my savings and I’m earning a wage and paying my bills.

“As a single bloke, I’m not entitled to anything and one bedroom places are so difficult to find.

“It went on week after week and every time I phoned up, I’d end up speaking to a different person, I must have spoken to 20 different people.

“It’s been unprofessional, it’s beyond a joke.

“Every time I asked a question, it would be deflected.

“I’ve got the keys now, but it needs a lot of work to it.”

County Durham Housing Group head of housing operations, Simon Bartlett, said: “We’re sorry that things haven’t gone as smoothly as we would have liked.

“We did everything we could to ensure that the property was ready as quickly as possible.

“We have agreed to carry out some further minor works which will also be completed as quickly as possible.

“We completely understand that everyone wants to move into their new home as soon as possible.

“We work with other services, particularly local authorities and in this case armed forces liaison experts to provide suitable support to anyone in need while they wait for a permanent home.

“Unfortunately, we have no involvement in the temporary accommodation process.

“Since the tenant moved in we have offered further support alongside colleagues from other agencies.”