'Uncomfortable, cold and frightening': Homeless man's experience living in car in Northampton

  • Wayne Dorling spoke to ITV News Anglia's Sarah Cooper

A former mechanic who was forced to live in his car when he lost his home and job fears he will not have a permanent roof over his head this winter.

Wayne Dorling, 54, was living with his girlfriend in Corby, Northamptonshire, when the relationship broke down and he became homeless.

It was the latest in a run of bad fortune which saw Mr Dorling lose his job as a mechanic during the pandemic.

Living in his vehicle has been an uncomfortable, cold and often frightening time for Mr Dorling, he told ITV News Anglia in the latest report on how the cost of living crisis is hitting the most vulnerable in society.

"If you imagine trying to sleep in the driving position behind the steering wheel of the car, it's really hard, especially as I'm six foot nine and I'm pretty broad built," he said.

"The rest of the car, it was just all my belongings, my clothes.

"It was a nightmare; it was freezing cold and I virtually burnt the car out of fuel because I had to start it to keep warm and when the funds run out, that's it.

"It's scary sometimes. I've parked up on the edge of town one night, I had a gang of kids banging on my car [abusing me].

"And I just thought: just leave me alone, all I want to do is sleep, I don't need the trouble. So I just moved. All I kept doing was moving the car from here, there and everywhere."

Mr Dorling, who is diabetic, eventually turned to a homeless shelter in Northampton for help when he ended up in hospital.

"It got to the stage where I poisoned myself with my insulin because I kept it in the car when it should be refrigerated," he said.

"I had to go to the hospital to get fresh insulin and they gave me an injection to counteract the bad insulin I had inside me."

A shelter in Northampton fears homelessness will rise this winter. Credit: ITV News Anglia

With support from the Northampton Hope Centre, Mr Dorling is now living in a Travelodge but does not know how long he can stay there.

He wants to find a permanent roof over his head before winter, but says finding accommodation has proved difficult and friends have been unable to help.

It is a situation that The Hope Centre says is getting worse, with more than 60 people sleeping on the streets in Northampton and more than 100 homeless and sofa surfing or similar.

Alex Copeland, chief executive of The Hope Centre, said: "What we're seeing now is a lot of people who are coming in who've lost their jobs, whose businesses haven't recovered after Covid.

"[They] may have had loans during Covid and haven't come back and have been unable to pay those loans off and those are the ones that we're now seeing.

"They've separated from their partner and all of a sudden they've ended up on the street and they can't get themselves going.

"So we're seeing a lot of people that were earning big salaries - some people here [had] £200,000 or £300,000 a year salaries - some people obviously getting by day to day, and these people are on the street as well and that's the scary fact.

"It can happen to absolutely anyone."

The charity Shelter said the cost of living was making housing problems worse for 70% of people calling them.

In the last three months, Shelter's emergency helpline has had 95 calls a day from people in the East of England - that is about 700 calls a week - and the charity is warning this winter could be one of the toughest yet.

Charlie Berry, policy officer at Shelter, said: "We are seeing people in really desperate situations calling us.

"We have had a man call us who only had one bag of rice left in his cupboard because his rent has risen and he couldn't afford to keep a roof over his head anymore."

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