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A man has been left devastated after being told to leave his childhood home by Monday despite his family and neighbours warning that he “won’t cope” if he has to move. Darren Evans, 51, was previously told he would need to leave the three-bedroom council house on Heol-Yr-Odyn in Caerau, Wales, after his brother and father died just months apart – and now his family say he’s been given a deadline.
Darren’s brother David died suddenly in July 2021, aged 53, and their father (also named David, known as Dai) died in November of the same year. Darren, who has lived in the house his whole life, has since been grieving and his mental health is said to have deteriorated to the point of feeling suicidal.
He was told 14 months ago he’d need to leave the house, but he had to wait until Thursday, March 9, 2023 to find out for certain. His family claim he was was then told he had just four days, until Monday, March 13, to move into a one-bedroom flat.
Darren’s sister, Kathleen Evans, said she managed to convince the council’s housing department to give him an extra week, until March 20, but his friends and family are desperate for a change of heart.
Darren said he was “gutted” and “shocked” to be told he was leaving the street he’d lived in since he was born. He told WalesOnline: “It’s just been too much, what they’re doing. It’s been horrible. They’re not considering what I need. It’s just getting worse because I’m getting depressed… it’s too much, like. I’ve lived here since I was born… we all look out for each other.”
Darren’s family claimed the one-bedroom flat he had been offered was not suitable for his needs. They said he was on a Personal Independence Payment and might need a live-in carer in the immediate future. He can’t read or write properly and often has friends and family stay overnight to keep an eye on him, something that would be difficult with just one room.
His sister Kathleen has offered either to start paying the bedroom tax on the additional rooms, or to give up her own three-bedroom council property and move in with Darren – which would free up both her three-bedroom house and the proposed one-bedroom flat to be offered out to someone else. But, she said, the council hadn’t accepted her suggestion.
Kathleen said her dad died “of a broken heart” after losing his own son just four months earlier, adding that the deaths “ripped the heart out of the family,” – Darren included. She said people regularly needed to drop-in to check on Darren: “He sits on the kitchen floor just rocking and watching the telly through the door. That’s not a life.
“He can’t stay on his own. There’s no way he’ll cope on his own when he’s been brought up with siblings, nephews, nieces, sisters and brothers-in-law around, and now he has a granddaughter and another on the way.”
When Wales Online arranged to meet Darren for an interview, they thought it would just be a chat with him and Kathleen. But when they arrived at his house, half the neighbourhood had turned up. Family and friends wanted to make the case for him staying in his childhood home.
Many of them grew up in Heol-Yr-Odyn with him, or saw their kids grow up alongside his. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the living room, they started trading stories about their childhoods on the street, and before long they got on to Darren’s situation.
“He needs his family and his friends around him,” said one neighbour, with another adding: “We’re not neighbours, we’re family…. our children have grown up together.” Another said Darren “just needs the stability of his house” after what he’s been through, and several agreed that it was a “very special street.”
Jane Power, a friend and former neighbour who has known Darren for decades, said: “We grew up together… to see him being turfed out of his home is heartbreaking. This is something very rare, this street.
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“You can’t possibly begin to understand until you’ve lived in it. Communities are very rare. It’s a community and a family in one. There’s still his father’s stuff here, still his brother’s stuff here – I really can’t understand how it’s come to this, why they wouldn’t just let him stay here.”
Darren was initially offered a one-bedroom flat in Spinney Close in Ely, but not given a date for when he had to move out. At the time, the law on tenancy succession only allowed one succession per property, which had already taken place for Darren’s house.
A change in the law in December, 2022, allows two successions in some circumstances – but the new law still allows councils to move people to smaller accommodation if their property is deemed too big for their needs – and in any case, wouldn’t apply here due to the timing of Darren’s father’s death.
Alison Swain – a care worker who used to live next door and still lives nearby – felt the accommodation offered to Darren would not be suitable. She volunteers to help out, sitting with Darren and talking about his mental health. She said: “He’s going through a very, very bad time. I’ve been staying overnight and now he’s on PiP he could get proper care but they have to stay the night. He’s, 51, he knows nothing else other than this house. Upstairs, it’s like a shrine [to his father and brother. There’s not that many places like this… I moved a few streets away but I still have a lot to do with the people over here.”
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