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NHS ambulance worker living in Volkswagen Fox car after being made homeless in Gravesend

An ambulance worker has been forced to live in his car after finding himself homeless.

Bogumil Kusiba was subletting a property in Cambrian Grove, Gravesend, but was given notice to leave by the end of September after his landlord announced he was selling up.

Bogumil has been living in his car for around a month
Bogumil has been living in his car for around a month

The NHS worker began searching for spare rooms in the borough but said there were no affordable options as he needed to pay the first month’s rent and a deposit upfront – totalling almost £2,000 in some cases.

Bogumil told KentOnline: “I do not have the money for both. It was unfortunate timing as it was also an expensive month for me with other bills.”

On September 27, he was made homeless and started living in his silver Volkswagon Fox.

Bogumil, who works for the London Ambulance Service maintaining and replenishing the equipment, has been sleeping in his work’s car park in Barnehurst, Bexley, as it is safer than the streets.

He sleeps by reclining the front seat and covering himself in three blankets and three thick coats to stay warm.

“I am so desperate to get out of my car,” Bogumil added. “I have a roof but it is not the same as having a room. I can put my seat all the way back but it is not a bed.

“People are surprised when I tell them I am homeless because I have a job, I am washed and my clothes are clean.

“It could happen to anybody. There is no t-shirt to declare we are homeless, it is not necessarily obvious to see.

“I used to be homeless but I managed to find a job and a spare room. It was a long time ago. I never thought I would be in that situation again.”

He said his employers have been supporting him and he has been able to use the office’s microwave, showers and communal facilities.

The only thing he cannot do is wash his clothes.

A friend is letting him use the washing machine at their property and he is storing his belongings with another.

Bogumil sleeps under multiple blankets and thick coats
Bogumil sleeps under multiple blankets and thick coats

Chief people officer at the London Ambulance Service, Damian McGuiness, said: "We are deeply saddened that our colleague Mr Kusiba is in such a difficult situation and are committed to helping him through this.

“His managers continue to provide him with support for his wellbeing and have signposted him to charities and local services that may be able to provide additional aid.

“While we are proud to be a London Living Wage employer, we recognise the cost of living has a significant impact on many across the capital.

“We will be working with him to ensure his working rotas are suitable for the very challenging position he finds himself in and is exploring other ways that we can provide immediate assistance.

“All of our staff can apply for grants through our London Ambulance Service Charity Hardship fund if they find themselves in financial difficulty.”

Bogumil, who has lived in the Gravesham borough on and off for the past 30 years, did contact the council for help when he became homeless and has continued to apply for spare rooms.

Bogumil has been trying to secure places to live but he cannot afford to pay both the rent and deposit
Bogumil has been trying to secure places to live but he cannot afford to pay both the rent and deposit

The 54-year-old said he was not offered temporary accommodation because he is single and has no children so is not a top priority.

He added: “I am so angry with the lack of communication, it does not seem to bother anyone that I am living in my car.

“The system is against me, it has been a mission to get this far.

“I am getting some support but it is not enough, I am still living in my car.

“On paper, I am at the bottom of the priority list. I understand other people come as a higher priority if they have children but I am not asking for a palace, just a bed.”

He has been told he could apply for a discretionary payment to help cover the cost of the rent – but only once he had secured a place to live.

Cllr Jenny Wallace said more than 200 households are in temporary accommodation in the Gravesham borough
Cllr Jenny Wallace said more than 200 households are in temporary accommodation in the Gravesham borough

Gravesham council’s cabinet member for housing services, Cllr Jenny Wallace, said: “We are extremely sorry for the situation Mr Kusiba finds himself in.

“Sadly, with the cost of living crisis hitting hard in recent months, it is the type of awful situation all too many individuals and families are facing.

“The demands on us to try and find homes for those who find themselves without a roof over their heads through no fault of their own are greater than they have ever been.

“We currently have more than 200 households in temporary accommodation. These record levels of demand have been consistent over many months now.

“Unfortunately, following assessment of his circumstances, Mr Kusiba is deemed to not have a priority need as outlined within the Housing Act 1996 (amended 2002), which means he does not meet the criteria for temporary accommodation.

“However, we continue to work with him to try and find a housing option and he has been offered access to the rent deposit scheme to increase his chances of securing accommodation.”

According to the legislation, pregnant women, those with dependent children, people who are vulnerable due to old age, mental illness or disability, someone who is made homeless as a result of an emergency such as flood or fire or a victim of domestic abuse, have the priority need for temporary accommodation.

Each Kent council's spending on temporary accommodation in 2018-19 and 2022-23
Each Kent council's spending on temporary accommodation in 2018-19 and 2022-23

Cllr Wallace added: “Mr Kusiba advised us he would be sofa surfing and sleeping in his car near his place of work in Bexley, which is why he has not been verified as rough sleeping by the Gravesham rough sleeping team. We have in place a whole series of measures to try and improve our general situation.

“In the past fortnight, we have launched GBC Lettings to work with private sector landlords to find homes for those already in temporary accommodation.

“At next week’s cabinet meeting, Gravesham council are due to approve the purchase of a number of properties in the borough which again will be used as homes for those in temporary accommodation and those who find themselves at risk of homelessness. And the local authority is continuing to press ahead with its programme to build new council-owned homes as quickly as we can.

“But all these things take time. I appreciate they are of no comfort to Mr Kusiba given the situation he finds himself in right at this moment.

“There is no easy solution, but our team will continue to work with him and give him all the help and support we can during this difficult time for him.”

The council is expected to spend £2.7 million on temporary accommodation for the year 2023/24 as high interest rates and the cost-of-living crisis lead to record numbers of individuals approaching the authority for support.

In a report set to be discussed next week, officers said difficulties in accessing private homes is also an issue being “exasperated” by other authorities procuring accommodation within Gravesham where it is more affordable compared to their area.

The report added: “It is known that some London boroughs have procured temporary accommodation locally, and in particular, the London Borough of Bexley, and despite the leader of the council making contact with their counterpart in these boroughs robustly stating Gravesham’s position, asking them not to add to the ever-increasing problem every authority is grappling with, it is understood that it continues.”

Earlier this month, KentOnline reported more than half of the county’s councils have seen temporary accommodation costs double between 2018 and 2023.

While only two saw less than a 50% increase Gravesham council has funded the largest rise in percentage terms, with an increase of 348.6%.

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