'I would stay in a shed if I had to': Northampton man Mitchell is one of many desperate to find a home this Christmas

Mithell Miles is one of hundreds of people desperate to find a home for Christmas here in Northampton.
Mithell Miles is one of hundreds of people desperate to find a home for Christmas here in Northampton.

Mitchell Miles, unlike many people his age, is counting down the days until his 35th birthday.

Hardly a landmark, you might think.

Mitchell says that sometimes, when he cannot stay with a friend, he is forced to sleep on the streets.

Mitchell says that sometimes, when he cannot stay with a friend, he is forced to sleep on the streets.

But to the young father, currently sofa-surfing and sleeping rough around Northampton, December 1 will be a big day.

Aged 35, Mitchell will become eligible to apply for single person accommodation due to the complicated way housing benefit is paid.

He suffers from Asperger’s and chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the latter caused five years ago when a gang of thugs fractured his skull in a town centre mugging.

He needs to live alone, but his conditions mean he falls into a grey area when it comes to housing.

Though he is on the emergency accommodation waiting list of several councils, including Northampton borough, the temporary digs they can offer him until something more permanent comes along are bed and breakfasts, flats and house share rooms.

All of these will trigger his conditions he fears - and neither of them are suitable for his 11-year-old son Thomas to come and visit at the weekends.

As a result, Mitchell is almost certain to have to spend his fourth consecutive Christmas homeless.

Sometimes, when the sofas of friends and family are not available, he has to sleep on the street.

“I’ve even said to councils that I will stay in a shed at the bottom of someone’s garden if I have to,” he said. “I just want somewhere warm, but I’ve got to be 35 to get somewhere.

“I want to spend Christmas with my son; I want to get my life back on track. I want to smile and get that bond back with my son.”

Mitchell’s ‘nightmare’ descent into homelessness is a sobering reminder of how simple changes in circumstances can lead to a downfall in a town with the third highest homelessness rate in the region.

He had been living in a privately-rented two-bed house in the Burton upon Trent, East Staffordshire, where he planned to pursue his hobby of broadcasting an internet radio show from the comfort of his house.

But the landlord wanted to sell up and Mitchell, having believed he had secured a new place to live through Trent and Dove Housing, handed in his keys.

The social home he was offered then fell through because an officer deemed it unsuitable for his needs at the 11th hour.

It was too late for Mitchell to go back to his private house and, in the blink of an eye, he was left without a home.

A five-year battle ensued with Trent and Dove in which they claimed he had failed to return correspondence and refused “suitable temporary accommodation” from East Staffordshire

Borough Council. The company also says he missed meetings.

Mitchell maintains he was let down by the company and said the council digs offered to him would have seriously worsened his mental state.

In his frustration, in 2017 Mitchell began posting videos online describing the heated exchanges between him and the company that only served to deepen the rift. At one stage, he was taken off their waiting list altogether.

“I think they failed to understand my frustrations,” said Mitchell, whose Asperger’s can often exacerbate his anger.

“I was trying to get my words out but I felt no one was listening to me.

“I accept I did go OTT on the videos - but I was doing that for my safety and my son’s safety.”

Now a week away from his 35th birthday and living off a £150 Jobseekers’ Allowance payment every two weeks, Mitchell wants to put all that behind him and find a home here in Northampton near his family.

“My dream is to be at home doing my broadcasting and just to have a life really.

“I was happy - but everything just went downhill.”