Homeless man living in Bishopstoke woods

A homeless man has been living in a tent in Stoke Park woods for the last three weeks.

When local carvery chef Desmond Spiers (28) lost his home and his job he turned to Eastleigh Borough Council for help but then rejected their offer of a space at a night shelter in Winchester because he wants to stay in Eastleigh and says that a previous bad experience means he feels safer sleeping in a tent.

Councils have a statutory duty to help homeless people but, says Mr Spiers, although the council were supportive and tried to find him alternative accommodation – there was nothing available other than the offer of a place in the night shelter.

Speaking at his muddy Stoke Park campsite Mr Spiers told me he had lived in care as a young person and had experienced a life of living in private rented accommodation.

He said he would never be able to afford to buy his own place on a chef’s salary, only to be able to rent a room in a shared house on a short lease and he now wanted the security of tenure and fair rent that social housing provides.

But because Mr Spiers is over 25 and a single man, he is not classed as a high priority for housing and there is an acute shortage of social housing in the area.

When I asked Mr Spiers if he understood that there were people with greater needs he replied:

“I agree kids are the main priority when it comes to housing and I appreciate that there are other people struggling out there – I’m with them all the way – but at the same time does it mean I have to live like this?”

A council spokesman confirmed they had met with Mr Spiers several times but he had declined the offer of a place at the night shelter.

The spokesman said that they were sympathetic to Mr Spiers adding:

“We are continuing to advise and assist him but he is not classed as a high priority case.”

Mr Spiers has started a facebook group “Homeless in Bishopstoke”

  23 comments for “Homeless man living in Bishopstoke woods

  1. August 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I would have thought that not having a roof over his head should immediately make Des a high priority case.

    As usual, EBC and the LIb Dems have got their priorities wrong….

    • August 5, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      EBC have done what they are obligated to do, but I worry, that a young man would choose this life style due to a sad history. This story is so very common in our inner cities, so, although he has declined an offer of a bed, I hope he has some support on offer.

      • mm
        Eastleigh Xpress
        August 5, 2014 at 11:56 pm

        As an update – he has started a new job (although still living in a tent) and Eastleigh’s Street Pastor team made contact with him and has helped sort out access to Doctor, food bank and similar as he hasn’t had any money coming in for a couple of weeks.

        • Steve
          August 6, 2014 at 8:32 am

          Many thanks for the mention of street pastors. We were pleased to help sign post but actually most credit should go to the worker with the homeless that the council employ who has helped move on a number of the issues. The ARK network may also become involved (google Eastleigh ARK if you are interested.
          Coordinator of Eastleigh Street Pastors.

  2. August 5, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    He has been offered a roof over his head, but has declined it. The Council can do no more, if they could house him they would.

    The problem lies with there not being enough housing association housing – a lot was sold off and not replaced and a lot is occupied by those who no longer need it. They may have needed it when they were first housed, but their lives have improved and they should move on to make way for those in need now.

  3. Rosie
    August 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    A prime example of where we need some small units (like they are starting to build in London)to house single people and couples on low incomes, or who have lost their homes due to redundancy, or retired singles and couples who are now struggling to make ends meet. There could be a mix of social and cheap homes (and no buy-to-let, which would just drive up prices and rentals) but just small 1-bed units. The former Meridian TV site in Southampton would be an ideal place for singles and couples who work in Southampton, with a bus route alongside. The car boot sale site at Bursledon is another ideal site for such housing. Even small units can be made to look attractive with the right materials and landscaping of the site and, if the balance of truly affordable and social housing is right, there is no reason why it couldn’t work. Time to forget Council boundaries and work together on this, local Councils! And instead of only thinking of people with children, it’s now time to think of single people and couples who need help at certain stages of their lives, or there’ll be a lot more tents in our local woods!

  4. Dave
    August 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Yet down Campbell Road there are single young blokes living in two bedroom houses, my daughter lived with one but when they split he kept the house and she is struggling in private accommodation bringing up a baby with no help from the council telling her she would be waiting eight years

  5. August 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Losing your home like Mr Spiers has experienced really brings home to you just how you can get outside mainstream life. When you lose your home you lose so much more. You can lose your family, your friends, your nieghbours and everything you have worked and strived for, more so if you lose your employment. Looking at the photo of Mr Spiers tent in the woods, it’s also clear that he lost home comforts that many of you take for granted. Running water, heating, TV and internet, bathroom facilities, cooking and laundry facilities.

    Rosie comments on how we could be looking at more ‘tents in the woods’. This is already happening around the country, more so in urban areas where for instance, now single men who have lost out in separating from their estranged wives. Returning servicemen are also to be included in this homeless debate, as great numbers are known to be making up the bulk of single homeless men. You only have to walk around the towns and cities of the nation to find homeless people of all ages and gender at a time when this country continues to house asylum seekers (yes there are some deserving cases) and economic migrants to the detriment of our own people.

    I read a report in the national media a couple of months ago that less than 3% of those buying a house are young people. Mortgages are far harder to obtain because of the criteria banks etc are now applying to applicants. The government encouraged rush to build new houses for sale, as we experience here in Hampshire continues the failure to address the much needed social housing shortage. The right to buy and the fact local councils were effectively shackled from building council housing clearly underpin the cause and effect of not there not being enough social housing.

    Maybe a move to redefine the high priority should be considered, only then will we begin to understand the true extent of the problem in our so called modern caring society where some people are more equal than others.

  6. August 5, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Perhaps one of our local lib dems could explain how Desmond’s story squares with their “strong economy fair society” narrative.

  7. Rosie
    August 5, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    So true, John. New “family” house prices have been inflated since the Government top-up funding scheme came into being, making them even less affordable, and there are no reasonably-priced non-social housing apartments for single people or couples wanting to buy their first home. You even have to be careful these days if you sell your home and want to rent while waiting for the next home completion to go through – you can find yourself being asked for a “guarantor” for the rent (even if you’ve capital from the house sale in the bank!), then find you don’t qualify for the next mortgage (even if you’ve been “pre-authorised” by the lender), due to having paid off your credit so your credit rating having reduced. Add to that relationship breakups with one non-working or low income partner who can find themselves homeless quite easily if there are no children involved. Then there are comfortably-off people who milk the system. Eg Two women who were each given over £1000 per month by local authorities to cover rent – plus other benefits. One of the women was amicably divorcing her husband and they tied up the family home in his business and privately agreed that he’d secretly pay her regular cash from the undisclosed cash received from his business. She was put in a brand new “social” house (which was very high quality, large and in a very good area!). With the undisclosed cash she bought a new car and has had holidays abroad with her friends. The other woman, in her 30s so well able to find work to support herself, wanted her husband to move to a larger home but he wanted to stay where he’d lived for years. So she got the local authority to pay her rental on a lovely property so she could move out with the children (to try to force the husband’s hand) when there was no reason the children couldn’t have stayed living with the husband, which the local authority should have insisted happen as the father was as capable of looking after the children as the mother. Sickening, especially when there are people in real need who deserve help – if only for a short time – but can’t get it.

  8. Stuart Jebbitt
    August 6, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    unfortunately this is not an isolated case I fear. I used to see someone emerging from the woods at the top of Allbrook way most mornings looking like they were living there somewhere, and likewise I once spotted a tent up in the woods at the far end of Lakeside Park, just before you get to the back end of the Concorde club, so not a fisherman. It’s an option people take rather than go to a hostel where they will be thrown in with substance abusers and people with other serious problems. I can see why a tent tucked away in the trees would a less scary option.

  9. sue
    August 7, 2014 at 9:11 am

    To be truthful yes in a way it’s wrong but in others it’s not he has only lived in Eastleigh area for 3 weeks originally from Southampton area he’s come to eastleigh as no doubt Southampton has refused to help him this time as they helped him last time he’s refused accommodation that eastleigh offered whether it’s a night shelter or not it was still a roof over his head

    • mm
      Eastleigh Xpress
      August 7, 2014 at 9:52 am

      “In a way it’s wrong” he’s homeless …but in a way it’s right?

      • sue
        August 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

        Yeah in a way it’s wrong he’s homeless but no one knows why he is I know he was helped my Southampton City council he was in a hostel then he had a flat in Thornhill area he’s been in Eastleigh for 3 weeks expecting to be rehoused well sorry it doesn’t work that way the questions are why did he refuse what he was offered from eastleigh which yes it was a night shelter surely that would be better then a tent but he refused it so he is making himself intentionally homeless because if he was as desperate as he’s making it put to be he would have accepted it no matter what look at that elderly couple few years back that had fostered 100 children in 40 plus years being made homeless had mbes etc they ended up having to rent private then had to wait 18 months to be rehomed by council and they were ill the bloke had cancer and lady was badly burnt and suffered post traumatic stress disorder and since the lady has been diagnosed with even more serious health problem why should it be one rule for one and another for another sorry if people think I’m wrong but this is how I feel

        • mm
          Eastleigh Xpress
          August 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm

          So you would agree there is a shortage of social housing then?

          Yes you are quite right (as stated at top of the story) he says he would rather sleep in a tent then go to the night shelter.

          He says he has been living and working in Eastleigh for six months – and he has been camping in Stoke Park Woods a month tomorrow.

          The elderly couple you refer to – was that in Eastleigh?

          • sue
            August 7, 2014 at 8:21 pm

            Yes they are and no he hasn’t been living in Eastleigh for 6 months I know many people that know him

            • mm
              Eastleigh Xpress
              August 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm

              Your friends have told you this?

    • Britain for the British
      August 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      The problem is he is white and British, we don’t count anymore. Hitch a free lift from Calais as an illegal immigrant and hey presto top of the housing list and £250.00 a week to spend

  10. mm
    Eastleigh Xpress
    August 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Des Spiers’s story was also featured on the Julian Clegg Show on Radio Solent this morning


  11. Sue Toher
    August 15, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Pleased to hear that Des now has accommodation

    • mm
      Eastleigh Xpress
      August 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      That’s good! Hope it works out for him

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