A desperate couple who were booted out of their council flat after falling behind with the rent when they lost their jobs have been forced to live in a SKIP behind a pet shop.
Former charity worker Paul Deacon, 49, and partner Sheena Rudy, 50, initially spent months living in a tent in a park after they ran out of money last June.
But they moved into a filthy skip behind a pet shop over Christmas and New Year when heavy rain forced them to abandon their tent.
As temperatures plunged to near freezing, the couple made a makeshift bed out of straw and hay thrown out by the store.
The couple have been given temporary accommodation at a homeless shelter but today they face another night on the streets after reaching the maximum number of nights allowed at the centre.
On Christmas Day the couple were forced to move into a metal Veolia skip with large plastic doors after breaking into it behind Natural World pet shop in Syston, Leics.
Paul, who lost his job as an industrial cleaner at Walkers Crisps last January, said: “This time last year Sheena and I both had jobs and a home.
“A few months later we’ve both lost our jobs and our home and spent Christmas Day in a skip dodging rats and sleeping on rubbish bags.
“I just can’t believe how quickly our life has gone down the toilet.”
Sheena, who has worked at cleaning jobs for 15 years, added: “We are both literally on the scrap heap. We have nothing but the belongings in our carrier bags. It’s humiliating.”
The couple, who have been together for four years, were evicted from their one-bedroom council flat in Syston, Leicester, last June after falling behind with the £300-a-month rent.
They did not qualify for housing benefit because they were both working as cleaners but fell behind with their bills and rent when they were made redundant.
Paul lost his job as a £200-a-week industrial cleaner at a Walkers Crisps factory in
Leicester as a result of job cuts at the company.
Meanwhile Sheena also lost her part-time job as a cleaner, leaving the couple penniless.
Charnwood Borough Council evicted them and changed the locks forcing the couple to live on the streets.
They spent the first two months sleeping on friend’s floors and ‘sofa surfing’ before moving into a tent in September.
Paul, who does not have children, added: “We’ve been to the council but they can’t or won’t help because they say we’re not an emergency case.
“We spent several nights over Christmas in the skip. There was a lot of shop waste in bags and lots of used animal bedding. It didn’t smell good but at least it was relatively dry.
“Words can’t describe what I was feeling that first night, I was worse than devastated.
“I never imagined I would end up sleeping in a skip. As I lay there I thought ‘There’s got to be something better than this’.
“It was a really bad night, wet, cold and windy, but the skip roof kept us dry. We just clung to each other and sobbed ourselves to sleep.
“Most shops want to shift you out of their doorways and we were exhausted. We just wanted to rest somewhere.
“The staff at the pet shop were brilliant. They bought us a tent when they saw we were sleeping in a skip, and filled up our flasks every day while we were staying there.
“I can’t thank them enough.
“I used to be a charity worker working with handicapped people, so I know people need charity, but it’s hard to accept sometimes – even when you need it.”
“But we found ourselves at rock bottom. We just wanted to exist, so we took what we were offered.
“We don’t have any family we can turn to. I was adopted and my dad’s passed away and my mum’s living in a residential home.
“I’ve been to the council for help but they can’t or won’t because we don’t qualify for emergency housing. We will probably have to go back to sleeping in skips.
“I can’t see a way out. We both get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which is about £60-a-week but that’s not enough to live on.
“I’m asthmatic, my back and knees ache every day and the cold and damp won’t do me any good.
“I was getting Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) but it was stopped last January. I was too ill to look for work but the council wouldn’t let me go on sickness benefits.
“The rent for the flat was about £300-a-month which was mostly paid for through housing benefit but I lost that when my JSA was taken away and that’s why we got kicked out when the money ran out in June.
“I’d lived in the flat for 17 years and Sheena had lived with me for about two years with me.
“I have always worked but it’s always been hand-to-mouth. Any savings we had ran out in June.
“I couldn’t face opening an envelope in case it was from the council. They (the council) were writing to me but I was too depressed to deal with it.
“It’s a very sad situation. People like us are being left behind and forgotten and more should be done to stop it and stop it from happening in the first place.”
Sheena, who has two grown up children who she has lost contact with, added: “It was so scary being in the skip.
“It was so cramped and damp and it was so hard to sleep, even though we were exhausted. I really don’t want to go back to that but it will probably happen.
“I have family but I can’t turn to them for help. I have worked but first and foremost I was a housewife and stay at home mum.
“I’m terrified about the future. We’re in a mess but we have each other and we will survive.
“When times are really hard we listen to the radio and tell jokes and try to stay positive.”
The couple were given five days accommodation by the Falcon Centre in Loughborough, Leics., but they will be back out onto the streets now.
A spokeswoman for the centre said: “Sadly, Paul and Sheena’s story is not as uncommon as it should be.
“More and more people are dropping off the edge and can suddenly find themselves homeless within a few weeks of losing their jobs.”