Portsmouth family of five forced to live in caravan and then one-bedroom flat after being made homeless

From left, Joe Lewis, his wife Charmane, and Claudy, Tommy and Lilly-Rose in a one bedroom flat in Cosham where they all had to live for a while'Picture: Malcolm Wells (180614-4014)
From left, Joe Lewis, his wife Charmane, and Claudy, Tommy and Lilly-Rose in a one bedroom flat in Cosham where they all had to live for a while'Picture: Malcolm Wells (180614-4014)

NOT ALL hidden homeless families are unemployed, as Joe and Charmane Lewis can testify.

The couple and their three children found themselves in a similar situation to Portsmouth mum-of-six Maria Stanley – who became one of the 80,000 hidden homeless households in the UK after being evicted seven months ago. 

Read More: Portsmouth mum reveals stress of being made homeless 

Although Joe worked as a builder at Portsmouth City Council his wages were not enough to cover private rent and they had no guarantor.

And they were not alone. Data obtained by charity Shelter revealed that more than 33,000 families in temporary accommodation are in employment. This figure has drastically increased since 2013, when it was 19,000.

Joe, 28, and Charmane, 26, have struggled to find a fixed term home for the last eight years.

Read More: Travellers set up camp at Portsmouth’s Canoe Lake

They found themselves relying on family to provide a roof over their heads on several occasions and at one point lived in a caravan. More recently they moved in with Joe's father and brother into a one-bedroom flat in Cosham where they lived in cramped conditions for six months.

The family were contained to the living room where two of the children slept in a bunk bed while Joe, Charmane and their youngest son Tommy shared a sofa. This was worrying for Joe and Charmane as three-year-old Tommy suffers from bilateral talipes, otherwise known as club foot.

Charmane said: 'Tommy couldn't sleep well because he was too cramped and he has operations coming up later this year. We just needed to get him into a proper home.'

Originally the couple hoped to get housed in Havant as that would be closer to family but they were told their connection to the area wasn't strong enough and they were referred to Portsmouth City Council.

Two weeks ago the council found them temporary accommodation in Barkis House in the city. Although they are relieved to have the two-bedroom flat their ordeal isn't over yet.

Charmane said: ‘It is a lot better here, it’s got two bedrooms and is quite big. So the kids have got a bedroom. Tommy is already sleeping a bit better. 

‘But we were told we have 56 days to find somewhere and we’ve been told we will probably have to look at private renting which we know we can’t do.

‘We don’t know what is going on at the moment. One of the problems was because we asked for a local home. They did offer to find us a place in Slough but Joe works in Portsmouth. We don’t know if we’re coming or going.

‘We just want somewhere fixed term where we can live.

‘There’s no advice I can give people in a similar situation. It’s depressing as hell. There’s nothing you can do. You just feel useless. You feel like you aren’t doing enough for your children.’