former soldier finally rehoused after sleeping in a tool store

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A Winslow man lived in a shed for 10 weeks after his home was gutted by fire.

Self-employed gardener David Barnes, aged 52, was made homeless after a fire ripped through his two-bedroom maisonette in Lowndes Way on August 7.

Repairs have not yet begun on the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust (VAHT) property and are expected to take at least six weeks.

It has taken until this week for the trust to find him temporary accommodation in Winslow – and until then Mr Barnes, who has lived in the flat for 17 years, was reduced to sleeping in an unheated former tool store in the block of flats.

Meanwhile, the housing trust has still been demanding rent from him and when he fell into arrears by £290, VAHT sent him a notice threatening to repossess the property.

Amazingly, the letter was sent to the boarded-up maisonette to which Mr Barnes does not have access.

It was only on Monday after the intervention of Winslow district councillor Llew Monger, who also alerted the Advertiser, that VAHT finally secured temporary accommodation for Mr Barnes at Winslow’s Bell Hotel.

Former soldier Mr Barnes said it has been a dreadful experience.

He said: “I’ve been in the shed for 10 weeks. I didn’t think it could go on like this.

“You wouldn’t leave a dog out in the rain like that.

“If it wasn’t for Martin and Darren at The Swan and Clare at the Royal British Legion, I’d have had no toilet facilities and nowhere to wash.”

“I’m ex-Army, I’m hard enough to put up with it. What if it had been someone more vulnerable?”

Mr Monger told the Advertiser: “It’s nonsensical that a man who is made homeless through no fault of his own should not only be put in that terrible position but have to pay for the privilege.

“What is even more perverse is that a notice to commence repossession should have been sent to the burned-out property because he had fallen two weeks behind with his rent.”

VAHT said it offered Mr Barnes a property in Steeple Claydon two days after the fire, although Mr Barnes said he was in a state of complete shock at the time and had no memory of the offer being made.

VAHT housing director Ian Silver said: “At this point, emergency accommodation would not be offered as the trust had offered the tenant appropriate temporary accommodation.

“Under the terms of their tenancy and Landlord and Tenancy Act 1987, tenants are still legally responsible to pay rent while away from their property.

“If a resident does not pay their rent, they will become subject to the Rent Recovery Procedure.

“This is only fair to the thousands of tenants who do pay their rent and would end up subsidising those that do not.”