Ordeal of gran, 60, facing ‘living on a park bench’

Facing homelessness: Gill Cowie and her pet dog Lucky
Facing homelessness: Gill Cowie and her pet dog Lucky

A grandmother is living in fear of being forced to live on the streets after being told she must leave her privately-rented home.

Gill Cowie, 60, has lived in West Grinstead for the past five years but the property owner now wants it back - and Gill says she cannot find any other affordable accommodation in the Horsham area.

“I am 60 and I don’t have the income to rent on the open market,” said Gill. She said she had been told by Horsham District Council that if she becomes homeless, she will be placed in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation. But she said that would mean she would have to be parted from her beloved pet dog Lucky - and she would lose her meagre income as a self-employed person because she would be left without phone or internet access.

“The rents in Horsham are astronomically high,” said Gill. “You need to be earning something like £27,000.

“Until this happened I didn’t realise it was so easy to become homeless. It is so scarey. I could end up on a park bench.”

Gill, has two daughters - one of whom lives in Horsham and one in Worth - along with a granddaughter. But she also fears she could be forced apart from her family if she had to move miles away to an area where rents are lower.

Gill is also terrified that she will be forced to give up her pet cockerpoo Lucky who has proved a lifeline for her after she moved to West Grinstead following the breakdown of a relationship.

“I am the only person she has ever known and she goes everywhere with me. She has been my little support.”

A spokeswoman for Horsham District Council said that they would do everything possible to stop anyone becoming homeless, but if it couldn’t be prevented and the person was ‘in priority need’, the council had a duty to accommodate them in emergency accommodation, which could be a temporary B&B. They would also be placed on a register for settled accommodation. “Anyone over the age of 55 has the additional option of applying to Saxon Weald Homes who hold their own housing retirement register,” she said.

The council says it also helps applicants to identify private accommodation and will see if they qualify for a tenancy deposit loan scheme. “As Ms Cowie is already renting in the private sector, this may be a more appropriate solution for her,” said the spokeswoman.

She said if Mrs Cowie could not find someone to look after her pet, if necessary, the council could help arrange for it to be housed, if it were ‘suitably immunised’.

l Anyone who thinks they can help can contact gillcowie82@gmail.com