Evicted family camping in Bristol churchyard

Gerrard Winstanley office at evnuk.org.uk
Sun Feb 10 20:56:35 GMT 2008

Date : 09.02.08  

A mother and daughter say they have been forced to live in a tent in
the grounds of a church after being evicted from their home. 

Fiona Mackenzie, 53, her daughter Verity, 24, and their dog Kai are
sharing a one-man tent at All Saints Parish Church in Fishponds.
Verity's boyfriend Robert Triggle, 25, has been living in a tent in
the churchyard for the past eight months.

Fiona and Verity were made homeless from their nearby privately-rented
house on January 17 after Fiona's husband, an IT consultant, left the
family last November. They say they have been harassed by local
teenagers and have had bricks thrown at their tent.

Verity had a kidney removed three months ago and is still recovering.

Fiona said: "When my husband left I couldn't pay the rent on the house
we had in Grove Road.

"The city council agreed to pay the back rent and I had a letter from
them saying this, which I took to the eviction hearing at the county
court, but the judge granted the eviction order anyway.

"By the time I got home from court, my daughter was out on the street
with the dog. The landlord had made arrangements for the house to be
cleared of our furniture but then my husband arranged for it to go
into storage.

"We had no choice but to set up our tent in the churchyard. I have
been to The Hub advice centre several times, to Shelter, and to the
local housing office until I was sick but no one seems able to help us.

"We don't want to live here. It's just awful. The kids threw a brick
at the tent and tore it. We have no water and have to go to a local
supermarket just to use the loo."

Fiona, who receives £152 a fortnight in benefits, was born in Scotland
but has lived all over the world with her husband of 10 years.

The family have lived in London, South Africa, Sweden, Spain,
Edinburgh and Yate.

Living in a tent has taken its toll on Fiona's health. She said that
she had not been able to breathe properly for several days.

Chris Whitehead, one of the church wardens at All Saints, said Fiona,
Verity and Robert were in an area at the back of the church.

He said: "We've not sought to move them on because we are trying to
support them and we understand they have been contacting different
agencies in order to find somewhere more appropriate to live. They've
been very considerate and know we are not going to take any aggressive
action because that would not be a Christian thing to do.

"But we are encouraging them to seek help and when I next go to see
how they are, will urge them to contact places like The Hub again. I
will also offer to do that myself on their behalf."

Bristol City Council said it had no record of Fiona visiting the
council or The Hub, but spokesman Peter Wood said: "Obviously we are
concerned. There shouldn't be a need for this lady and her daughter to
be living in a tent.

"We urge her to get in touch again and we will offer whatever support
we can."  
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