Woman moves into tent in woods after losing job at McDonald's during lockdown

A woman who lost her job at McDonald’s during lockdown has had to resort to living in the woods. 

Melissa Norman, 34, had to leave her hostel after no longer being able to afford the rent. She’s now staying with her partner in a tent near Torquay, Devon.

Her local council have told her it make take a year to house her because of the huge increase in demand for temporary accommodation. 

Melissa was furloughed from the fast food giant when all restaurants were shut back in March and then let go as coronavirus measures continued to hit takings. 

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She said: ‘I moved into the hostel just before lockdown. I then got furloughed and lost my job at McDonald’s and didn’t have enough money to carry on paying the rent.’

Melissa rang Torbay Council the day before she had to be out of the hostel, informing them of the situation but said they wouldn’t help because she was still housed at the time. 

She added: ‘I have been in a tent for over a week. The council have told me I am on a waiting list but it could take up to one year to house me. I’ve worked since I was 16 years old, paid all of my taxes. I think it is disgusting.’

Since sleeping rough, Melissa said she had seen an increase in homeless people, with six new faces on the streets.

During the lockdown, councils were given emergency funding to find places for homeless people to stay but many are now back out on the streets again. 

In order to get food and winter provisions, Melissa has been relying on People Assisting Torbay’s Homeless (PATH), a local community group which helps those at risk of homelessness, or people who are vulnerable or in crisis.

PATH founder, Kath Friedrich, said people have been coming to them in ‘eye watering’ numbers during the outbreak.

She said: ‘Torbay Council have a number you can call if you are going to be homeless, but when you ring nothing really happens until someone can verify that you are actually on the streets, so that person will end up sleeping rough. It can take a while.

‘It is getting colder and we have no winter provision as of yet. Normally, we would get sleeping bags from festivals such as Glastonbury, but with festivals cancelled this year we have none.’

Torbay council has defended the apparent lack of support, saying their specialist team have been inundated with requests for help and they are working flat out to find places for people to live. 

Councillor Christine Carter said: ‘In common with most areas of the country, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we are seeing a huge increase in demand for our Housing Options service and our team are working extremely hard to secure temporary accommodation for those who need it.

‘We anticipate greater numbers seeking assistance with homelessness in the near future once the greater economic impact of the pandemic is felt and courts start processing possession claims again.

‘We aim to be able to ensure that nobody has to be sleeping rough this winter in severe weather, and will once again be activating our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol which is used when severe weather is forecast and provides emergency accommodation.

‘We have also recently published advice on our website for people who are worried about losing their home.’

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