‘I wake up and just cry’ - Disabled couple left homeless and living in car with three dogs
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A disabled couple who have been living in a car for the past two months with their three dogs after being made homeless say they have 'lost everything'.
Ian, 56, and Frances Cooper, 54, from Aylsham, have been living in a Renault Kadjar, paid for with mobility allowance, with their Jack Russells Lady, Tia and Alfie, for the last two months.
The couple have had difficulty finding accommodation as only two of the dogs are assistance dogs, and they are unwilling to split them up.
The couple, who are both disabled, were living in a privately rented bungalow in Colby, north Norfolk, in November 2018 but were evicted in July this year after being ordered to by Norfolk County Court.
Mr Cooper, who has spondylolisthesis of the spine - a condition which causes the vertebrae to slip out of place - said: "We paid the landlord four months rent and a deposit out of a backdated benefit I was owed.
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"We approached North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) in November to claim for the rent but they never helped us.
"We packed up all the things we needed into our car and we have been like this since."
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After leaving the private bungalow in Colby, the couple were offered other accommodation by NNDC.
Mr Cooper, who was recently in the hospital with sepsis and now has a stoma bag, said: "On July 19, NNDC offered us a hostel in Costessey but after four weeks the council informed us that we had to leave there because we said there were drugs being smoked.
"The council put us in a caravan in Great Yarmouth for one week and after that a Premier Inn where our dogs were not allowed."
Premier Inn have confirmed that with the exception of assistance dogs, they do not allow pets to stay at their hotels.
Of Mr and Mrs Coopers' three dogs, only two are assistance dogs, helping Mrs Cooper, who is part-deaf.
The 54-year-old, who also suffers from fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, said: "We have been told by the council to put our dogs in kennels or re-home them. They are 10-years-old and trained for our disability needs."
However, when asked whether they would consider giving up Alfie - who is not an assistance dog - Mrs Cooper said they were unwilling to.
The couple claim splitting up the three dogs - who they describe as "inseparable" - would "kill them".
"They are more than just our family, they assist us. When Ian passed out and was bleeding from his head, the dog started licking his face and crying to me to help," Mrs Cooper said.
North Norfolk District Council were approached for comment and said it would not be appropriate to make comments on individual cases.
Mrs Cooper said: "I wake up in the morning and just cry because I don't understand how we got like this. It's affecting not just our physical health, but mental health too.
"It is too much, we desperately need a home. We have lost everything."
Mr Cooper used to work in London as the royal head of states carpenter in royal estates across the country while Mrs Cooper was a chef.
Mrs Cooper said: "We often stay in car parks so we can let the dogs out and walk them, we wash and toilet in supermarkets and eat precooked food every day.
"We have both worked our whole lives and now we are homeless. You never expect to become homeless.
"It's so difficult because it feels like we are going to be stuck in this situation forever. We can't go on like this, it's uninhabitable."
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman will now investigate a complaint put to them by Mr and Mrs Cooper about NNDC.
The complaints include not being awarded the correct priority band, making unsuitable offers of interim accommodation.
Other complaints include giving the wrong advice over whether or not the couple should have claimed universal credit or housing benefits and evidence of harassment from a landlord not being considered.
The couple now have to wait for their benefits to come through from the council along with an offer of new temporary accommodation.