Norwich family sleeping in woods in Trowse, outside Norwich

A Norwich family claims it is being forced to live in the woods because the council won't provide emergency accommodation.

Married gay couple Kelly Barnes, 30, and Jodie Barnes, 29, plus Kelly's four children are living in two tents in woods nearTrowse, on the edge of Norwich.

For the last two months they have been either living at the woods in Trowse or at Mousehold Heath. They do not have any sanitary facilities and are having to go to the toilet in the woods.

They also do not have any washing facilities and are existing on a diet of takeaways as they cannot cook anything.

The couple said they had been living at a private address in Earlham and their tenancy lasts until November.

But they claim they are too scared to return there because of disputes with the landlord and threats from neighbours.

Kelly, 30, admitted that it was especially hard on the children, Aaliyah, Briony, Georgia and Layla, who range in age from seven to 13.

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One of the children was refusing to go to the toilet in the woods and waiting to go at school, and the children were also turning up to school in grubby uniforms as there was no water to wash their clothes.

But she said: 'We are prepared to keep living in the woods until we are rehoused, however long that takes. We would rather live in the woods, even without any water or other facilities, than return to that house.

'Sleeping in the woods is the last option but we don't believe we had any other choice. No-one is helping us.

'The kids also prefer to be here rather than in the house where we were before, where we were threatened and the windows were smashed. None of us wants to go back there because we are just sitting targets in that house.

'But the stress on us is unbelievable, having to live like this.'

The family previously lived in a council house in Vauxhall Street, Norwich, but Kelly split up with her ex-partner and they moved to the new home in Earlham for their children's safety.

Kelly added: 'A private house came up and we moved in there, but now the landlord wants us out.

'The council won't rehouse us, though, so we have no option other than to sleep in the woods. We have been alternately sleeping on Mousehold Heath and Trowse woods and living in tents. We think the council has a duty of care to rehouse us.'

Both women are on benefits and Kelly suffers from bipolar disorder, and Kelly said that it was hard to keep entertained at night.

'We just sit in the tent talking while the children play in the woods,' she said. 'On weekends we walk around the woods and go to parks in Norwich. The children are all right when we are at the parks but it's harder to keep their spirits up when we come back to the woods. But all of us would rather be in the woods than to go home.'

She said while they lived on Mousehold Heath they were continually being interrupted by walkers, and other people had questioned whether they had permission to be sleeping in the woods.

A Norwich City Council spokesman said: 'Making sure people who are in need of housing or other support to keep them and their family safe is of paramount importance to us and our partner agencies.

'If someone does speak to us about their need for accommodation, it is essential they present us with as full and accurate picture of the situation as possible, as well as let us know if this changes.

'This way we can provide tailored help or make our colleagues from other agencies aware so they can offer the most appropriate support for their specific needs.'

The council spokesman said emergency accommodation would only be issued in certain circumstances where an applicant needed an urgent move to ensure their well-being or safety. In those circumstances the council would provide temporary accommodation which would be self-contained and not B&Bs.

A Norwich police spokesman confirmed officers had twice been called to the Earlham address where the family was living. On the first occasion, there was an altercation over rent money, and the parties involved were told to seek civil/legal advice, police said. And then in May police were called to a report of criminal damage at the property.

are you living somewhere unusual? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email

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