Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Sleeping Rough in Bid to Help Pension Stretch; RICHARD, 62, SHELTERS UNDER RAILWAY BRIDGE AS FLAT TOO EXPENSIVE

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Sleeping Rough in Bid to Help Pension Stretch; RICHARD, 62, SHELTERS UNDER RAILWAY BRIDGE AS FLAT TOO EXPENSIVE

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN O'DONOGHUE Reporter dan.odonoghue@trinitymirror.com @DanChronicle

PRIVATE rents have increased by an average of PS2,000 a year since 2010, and the number of council homes at affordable rent has dropped by 140,000 nationwide.

Over the same time period, homelessness has hit record levels - with the number of rough sleepers now totalling more than 4,000. In the second of our series on Newcastle's homeless, we talk to Richard Mussard, 62, who sleeps under a railway bridge in Newcastle as he says he cannot stretch his pension to pay for a flat and live. Richard, originally from London, moved up to the city several years ago to be closer to friends.

He has been sleeping rough for a number of years now and worries, given his age, that he may not be able to continue doing it for much longer.

He said: "I get a small pension. I have been in a few places but I have walked out because my pension is gone - all for the sake of having a roof over your head. Well, a railway bridge is a roof over your head. I know it is a bit silly at my age, but you have got to do what you have got to do. You either pay an arm and a leg or you get rid of the middle man and sleep rough."

Richard takes great pride in his appearance and was keen to stress that he wanted to be seen as presentable, he said: "I go to the gym and do a bit of body building and I get a shower - I always look presentable, I make sure my nails are clipped and I am clean."

When asked how he managed with Newcastle's sometimes plummeting temperatures, he said: "As long as you have got the wherewithal to keep warm it is fine. I am in two sleeping bags, I am warm as toast. "I sleep under a bridge, it's the common sense thing to do - some rough sleepers sleep in town.

"That is really a no-go area - you have not only got people from the pubs passing by, you have got other rough sleepers. …

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