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Gloucester homeless man: My life on the streets this Christmas

By The Citizen  |  Posted: December 19, 2012

  • struggle: Homeless man Richard Mills, 49, from Gloucester.

  • Homeless: Ex-landscape gardener Richard Mills, 49, outside Sainsbury's in Gloucester selling copies of the Big Issue.

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A CHEESE sandwich in a cold, damp tent is about as good as it gets this Christmas for homeless Richard Mills.

The shocking reality of the former landscape gardener's life on the streets of Gloucester will hit home to family's sitting down for Christmas dinner this year.

The 49-year-old lost his job 18 months ago, couldn't pay his rent and became homeless as a result.

Now he sells the Big Issue outside Sainsbury's, on Northgate Street, just to pay for basic supplies.

When he's not working on the streets, he heads 'home' to his tent, pitched in muddy grounds at near the city centre.

"It's cold and damp in there. Apparently it's a tent for two people but you probably wouldn't want two people inside," he said.

And on Monday he returned to find his tent had been ransacked by youths.

He's since had to move it to another equally unpleasant site.

"Every day I get abuse from teenagers who say I'm a scrounger, a smackhead and that I should get a proper job.

"You just take it on the chin and carry on.

"As for Christmas Day, it is just another day for me," he told The Citizen as he was given a food handout by a passerby. "This cheese sandwich I've just been handed is probably going to be something like my Christmas dinner.

"Even on Christmas Day we are kicked out of the night shelter by 8am and then you fend for yourself."

He couldn't believe his luck last year when one of his Big Issue customers invited him out for a Christmas dinner. But he's not been so fortunate this time.

"I'd love to be in my own house again one day but at the moment I can't see a way out," he said.

But for now he's braving the colder weather, continuing to sell his copies of the Big Issue.

And even that is a challenge.

Richard walks 1.5 miles with just £3 in his pocket to buy his first two issues.

He walks the same distance back, sells them, before repeating the journey to buy more copies.

He's also picked up some odd jobs along the way.

"One customer has me drive her into town so she can do her shopping and I've been doing some DIY too," he said.

"You've just got to pick up what you can when the opportunities come along."

Gloucester City Council bosses say help is at hand for people who find themselves at risk of becoming homeless.

Mary Hopper, homelessness and housing advice service manager, said: "The city council offers a range of prevention measures to try and help people to avoid homelessness where possible.

"I would urge anyone in the city worried about becoming homeless to contact us as soon as possible for advice and assistance.

"This way we can try to work with them to keep them in their home."

For anyone who finds themselves without a roof over their heads over the Christmas period they can contact the City Council in office hours on 01452 396 396.

The council is closed between December 24 and 26 but an emergency service is available on 07958 485 530.

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  • Raccoon  |  December 21 2012, 4:58PM

    Bonkim, I think that the relevant term here is 'priority need'. I suspect that, as a single man, he is not deemed to be a priority.

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  • paul813  |  December 20 2012, 8:39AM

    arkell, your the idiot , what if he hits someone down with no insurance ? maybe if it was a member of your family it would be ok because of his situation !!,idiot

    Rate   -3
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  • Bonkim2003  |  December 19 2012, 10:55PM

    additional point - indicting that someone can become homeless outside working hours and provisions for emergency cover: Of course the council can provide advice/assistance directly or via other agencies/voluntary groups charged with such work. This chap should just walk in the council offices with his sleeping bag and camp there - and see what happens. Service provision 6.8. A need for accommodation or assistance in obtaining accommodation can arise at anytime. Housing authorities will therefore need to provide access to advice and assistance at all times during normal office hours, and have arrangements in place for 24-hour emergency cover, e.g. by enabling telephone access to an appropriate duty officer. The police and other relevant services should be provided with details of how to access the service outside normal office hours."

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  • Bonkim2003  |  December 19 2012, 10:46PM

    GlosGrumpyGit - whilst this forum is unsuitable for discussing the complexities of the housing and social services acts and applicants with more serious needs - with children, etc, get priority, in principle, if this chap is reduced to sleeping on park benches or tents on the wayside - he is obviously homeless. His local authority has a duty to provide him advice, and assitance on the relevant social security legislation and depending on individual circumstances arrange temporary accommodation until the circumstances are investigated and permanent solutions put in place. Of course his choice will be limited and he will have to take what is offered. There is no reference to this chap having approached his local council about being homeless - in fact any costs of temporary accommodation are met by social security but councils have a duty of advice, and smoothing the path, check the numbers of homeless being put in temporary accommodation/B&B, etc. Extract from the Housing Act: "Interim duty to accommodate 6.5. If a housing authority has reason to believe that an applicant may be eligible for assistance, homeless and have a priority need, the authority will have an immediate duty under s.188 to ensure that suitable accommodation is available for the applicant (and his or her household) pending the completion of the authority's inquiries and its decision as to what duty, if any, is owed to the applicant under Part 7 of the Act. Chapter 7 provides guidance on the interim duty to accommodate. Authorities are reminded that 'having reason to believe' is a lower test than 'being satisfied'.

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  • Mrpedigree  |  December 19 2012, 8:14PM

    With the majority of these types being homeless is a personal choice,haven't anyone eva watched a tv documentary on it ?

    Rate   -17
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  • Star600  |  December 19 2012, 7:28PM

    Hope this guy gets a break soon....if he works for the Big issue surley they must be able to help and point him in the right direction. Shame on those youngsters who trashed his tent...they may find themselves in th same situation one day, then who will be laughing! Also shame on those who automatically think your homeless, you take drugs or have done...it may be the case sometimes but not for everyone and people from all walks of life can become homeless....

    Rate   18
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  • GlosGrumpyGit  |  December 19 2012, 5:33PM

    "Bonkim2003 - Local councils have a statutory duty to provide temporary housing/B&B for homeless people" This is not correct, Local councils have a duty to help homeless people, this help can range from advise to providing shelter but it all depends on your circumstances. A single male of this mans age is only entitled to advise(assuming he has no medical conditions) The council will not house him.

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  • gallopingbear  |  December 19 2012, 3:56PM

    Lord Gaga, I believe he is referring to the Christmas shelter, which is only open for a few days over the holidays.

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  • Bonkim2003  |  December 19 2012, 1:19PM

    Local councils have a statutory duty to provide temporary housing/B&B for homeless people - why has this chap escaped the safety net? Is it voluntary homelessness? Or is this just a feel-guilty trip for the readers so they go out and buy the Big issue? What happens after Christmas and the cold sets in? Best this chap contacts the council and gets temporary B&B accommodation and sorts himself out.

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  • Vertigo23  |  December 19 2012, 12:28PM

    Really Gaga you think a night shelter is a solution? yes it provides shelter in the evening but where are you supposed to go after you leave? Just because it's daylight doesn't mean hypothermia and the like cant set in. I hope you never find yourself in this mans position, I know a few people who have and it's a horrible place to be. Good luck to the guy and I hope his situation improves in the very near future

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