Belfast Telegraph

Forced to live in a tent: Desperate Derry family who can't get house

BY LESLEY HOUSTON

A man and his young family are living in a tent in the front garden of his parents' house, claiming the Housing Executive was unable to find a suitable home for them.

Londonderry man Paul Fisher, his partner Audrey Buchanan and their two-year-old son Ethan spent their first night under canvas outside his mother's home in the Creggan area on Friday night after becoming homeless two days previously.

Paul's mother Anna has no room to accommodate them within the house and she says the young couple been left distressed and embarrassed by their new 'home'.

Mr Fisher last night told the Belfast Telegraph that after their first weekend outside the Rinmore Drive home, the family have found it nearly impossible to sleep and are now appealing for something more suitable.

The 30-year-old man admitted his family had been offered temporary accommodation outside the city but that it "wasn't an option" because he does "heavy lifting" for his parents because of a spinal condition his father suffers from. He revealed that another offer, of a third floor flat at John Street in the city, had been turned down as the mere thought of it prompted Ms Buchanan (26) to suffer panic attacks.

Paul, who is currently unemployed, explained his reaction to the offer followed an attempted murder in the street when they were visiting his parents who were then living in the area.

"We were just visiting at the time but just the thought of it sent her into a panic attack. But it wouldn't be suitable anyway, being on the third floor, with the pram and the baby."

Mr Fisher added that the street was known to be used by alcoholics and drug users.

Paul's mother Anna said her rear garden was too small to accommodate the tent and said the couple have been left embarrassed by having to pitch the tent in the front garden.

Paul revealed that Audrey has been too frightened to sleep and that their child has been waking often throughout the night, unable to get back to sleep for long periods.

The couple had previously lived in a rented flat in the Rosemount area but had been asked to leave the dwelling to enable the landlord to carry out refurbishments to the house.

Audrey then applied to the Housing Executive for a home in June, but following advice, the couple withdrew her application and submitted a new one as a couple.

Because of the alteration to their bid for a house, Paul said the Housing Executive viewed their case as only having been lodged last Wednesday.

"I told the NIHE we had nowhere to live but they said it would take time. I've never even stayed in a tent before and now I feel like I'm letting my son down."

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