Published: 06:00, 12 September 2019
| Updated: 15:51, 12 September 2019
A series of unfortunate events have left six children and their parents living in a tent for more than a month.
Joanne Foster and her husband Daniel, 32, are raising their children from the tent in Daniel’s mother’s back garden in Northwood, Ramsgate.
Joanne explains her situation here
The couple became homeless due to both suffering from poor health within months of each other and having to switch over to benefits.
Thanet District Council deemed the family intentionally homeless after they went for help in March of this year.
They have been living in the tent since August 9, which is housed under an open wooden porch.
Now, the couple say they are concerned for their children’s wellbeing as the winter evenings drawn in and temperatures start to drop.
“The mornings at the moment are absolutely freezing,” Mrs Foster, 33, said. “The kids wake up and you can hear the sniffles.
"We don’t know how cold it’s going to get. Pneumonia...it can kill a child.”
Her mother-in-law's property only has three bedrooms and is already full, so there is no room for the family to sleep inside the house.
Mrs Foster said at first the children treated it like a holiday, during the warm weather of the summer holidays.
“Then the youngest one said, ‘can we go home now?’ It was such a kick to the stomach.”
The youngest child, Marnie, is three years old.
Karen Constantine, Thanet District councillor for Newington and Kent county councillor for Ramsgate, has been working with the family to try and help them get emergency housing.
She said: “The council has failed to provide adequate support for this family.
“I know the housing team are working hard, with rising need, but the Foster family it seems have been let down.
“The children are suffering badly. Thanet District Council needs to act to house them as an emergency.”
The couple worked until illness and poor mental health struck them both.
Mr Foster worked as a French polisher at the houses of famous celebrities like George Michael, until he was diagnosed with arthritis in his chest.
He had to quit due to the chest pains, and the family ended up in rent arrears whilst switching over to the benefits system.
Mrs Foster had to quit her part-time job as a barmaid because of arthritis in her leg.
“For both of us to get the same particular thing is kind of weird.
“The pain is just the worst really. I’d love to be out there working, I really would.”
The couple applied for homeless relief duty after realising they could not make up their rent arrears due to their inability to work and the cost of looking after the six children.
According to the mum-of-six, social services only visited after Cllr Constantine enquired about the case.
She said social services visited her but were not concerned about the welfare of the children living in the tent, saying: “The kids are happy, we don’t need to work with you.”
Kent County Council run social services for the area and has been unable to comment on the case.
Their predicament has recently been brought to the attention of Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England.
She said: “Regardless of the specifics of a case, for children there should be a general and vital principle is that it cannot, in this country, at this time, be right that six of them live in a tent in a garden as their home.
“Children need stable, safe and permanent homes within which not only to live, but to thrive and get the best start in life. A tent does not fulfil that.
“Once families reach a crisis point, there are often a number of things that they and the authority could and should have done earlier to resolve the issue, but at this point this cannot be the end, or even a short term, solution.”
A spokesman from Thanet District Council said: “We cannot comment on individual cases. Where an investigation concludes that a family is intentionally homeless from their last settled address, they are given a reasonable period of time in temporary accommodation to search for alternative accommodation with support of our housing options team.
“There is an independent, external review process of all decisions made by the council in relation to housing applications, which provides a check to ensure that the law is correctly applied in every case."
More by this authorOliver Kemp