"This Christmas a tent is our home"
HOMELESS couple Cathy Johnson and Lee Simms have been left camping in Pittville Park after losing their jobs.
And the pair believe they have become victims of the system after the council failed to find them anywhere to live.
Under guidelines laid out nationally, the obligation to rehouse them lies with the local authority where they originally lost their house.
As the couple became homeless in Cornwall, Cheltenham Borough Council is under no obligation to find them accommodation.
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For the last six weeks, 29-year-old Cathy and her 38-year-old partner Lee have been sharing a tent with their dog, Storm. They had originally met in the county before moving to Cornwall to find work.
Cathy had been working in telesales until the company she was working for liquidated, while her partner drove a tractor before being laid off.
Cathy said: "All I want is my own room with the person I love, and the dog I love, and to feel safe."
The couple have already been told by borough council officers that they must leave "without delay".
An eviction notice was handed to them on December 6, warning them they would be moved by force if they failed to comply.
Outreach worker, Craig Fraser, from Gloucestershire homeless charity Gear, works with the borough council to help deal with the issue in the town.
He warned the council should not be trying to evict the couple.
Mr Fraser said: "All it takes is a breakdown of a relationship, a loss of employment, then you are on the streets. We are all only two pay cheques away from being homeless."
They claimed they were approached by two police officers during the Open racing weekend in November after complaints from residents about them camping in the park.
Alexa Collicott, spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Constabulary, confirmed the PSCOs had spoken to the couple.
She said: "The council is responsible for the land and supporting any homeless people in the town, but police officers regularly carry out welfare checks on the couple when out on patrol, especially during this much colder weather."
Cheltenham Borough Council's housing and communities manager, Martin Stacy, said the couple had been approached on several occasions to discuss their housing options, and they had not approached the authority for help.
He added: "We commission Cheltenham Housing Aid Centre to deliver Assertive Outreach Services for rough sleepers. Chac has visited this couple on several occasions with a view to encouraging them to see our staff at Cheltenham First Stop on the lower High Street to seek advice about their housing options.
"We are also aware they are receiving support from a Gear worker to try to achieve the same end.
"To date they have not approached our service for assistance."
Councillor Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank), cabinet member for housing and safety, said: "Living in a tent in a public park is not a solution to the couple's accommodation needs."