Honiton: Homeless family penalised for turning down house

PUBLISHED: 09:07 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 00:32 16 June 2010

P1728-45-09TI Mark Penwarden and his family.
photo Terry Ife

P1728-45-09TI Mark Penwarden and his family. photo Terry Ife

Copyright Archant Ltd

A HOMELESS Honiton man, who turned down a two-bedroom housing association property in Exmouth, says he had no idea his refusal would lead to him being relegated in East Devon District Council s housing allocation band system.

A HOMELESS Honiton man, who turned down a two-bedroom housing association property in Exmouth, says he had no idea his refusal would lead to him being relegated in East Devon District Council's housing allocation band system.

Mark Penwarden, 38, is the legal guardian of stepdaughter Letticia Edgecombe, 15. She is a student at Honiton Community College and Mr Penwarden says he turned down the house in Exmouth to ensure continuity for Letticia's education, which will peak next year when she sits GCSE exams.

They are living with Mr Penwarden's sister-in-law, Beverley Edgecombe, her partner Andrew Shepperd and their 18-month-old son, Alex. It means that three adults, a teenager and a baby are living in a two-bedroom flat at Whitebridges.

"When I turned the house in Exmouth down, East Devon District Council put me down from a gold band to silver," said Mr Edgecombe.

"I didn't realise that would happen. It means my application for housing is now being treated at a lower priority.

"An appeal can take up to a month, but the council has told me that I will be staying in the silver band.

"The worry for us is that we will still be here at Christmas."

Lettitia said all her friends are in Honiton and that she wants to sit her exams at Honiton Community College.

Beverley said: "It's not easy living like this. You don't get your space. We have had them long enough now."

Mr Penwarden and Lettitia are sleeping on sofas in the flat's sitting room.

They have been homeless since August following a relationship breakdown and have been on the council's housing list since September.

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said: "It is indeed unfortunate that this client did not take up the offer of a property. In these difficult times, such offers are rare and it could be a considerable time before another suitable property comes along.

"Out of fairness to other clients on the housing register, we have to operate within a set of ground rules. One of these is that where we make one reasonable offer of accommodation to prevent homelessness and a client turns down that offer, we have discharged our duty to them. We confirmed this in writing to the applicant on 28 October.


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