No help as pair face homelessness

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AS most people look forward to the start of a new year, one couple from Bury St Edmunds are facing home- lessness.

Mark and Francesca Bird, of Acacia Avenue, are set for a cold start to the year as they are forced to declare bankruptcy and have their house repossessed.

With family who already have overcrowded homes, the couple may be forced to live in a tent after St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s housing department deemed them non-priority for council housing.

Mr Bird, who works for Thomas Ridley, is in the Territorial Army and has had to cancel a six-month tour to Cyprus in February because of his money problems.

He and his wife Francesca, 29, ran into money problems after the recession hit Mark hard when he was working as a self-employed taxi driver.

He said: “When I first started, money was good, but the recession swallowed up my savings.”

The 34-year-old has worked full-time since he was 15, and has always paid his taxes.

Mrs Bird, who works in administration at West Suffolk Hospital, said: “It’s ridiculous, they’re just leaving us out in the cold.”

The couple were added to the housing list as non-priority band C when they approached the council for help in July.

They are disappointed with the lack of help they have had from the council and the manner in which they have been dealt with.

A council spokesperson said: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, we do look carefully at individual circumstances and prioritise the allocation of housing available according to the greatest need. Our first objective is to prevent homelessness.”

The couple are worried that their housing situation will affect their rights to see Mark’s two children from a former relationship. They currently see the children every other weekend.

Mrs Bird, who has a history of depression, is also concerned about the effect that the stress is having on them. She is currently taking medication to help and said the couple’s relationship broke down temporarily.

The couple were paying off large mortgage payments of £1,000 per month and had also been given a £30,000 loan when they took out their mortgage in 2007.

The couple are unable to let privately due to their poor credit rating and their two pet dogs.

Mr Bird said: “It has been an absolute nightmare and the lack of help has been awful.”