An NHS ambulance worker has been forced to live in his car because he can't afford rent.
Bogumil Kusiba, 54, had struggled to find an affordable room to rent after he was told his landlord was selling up in September.
He says he had no other option but to sleep in his silver Volkswagon Fox – staying in his work’s car park in Barnehurst, Bexley, as it was safer than the streets.
Bogumil, who works for the London Ambulance Service maintaining and replenishing the equipment, said: “I am so desperate to get out of my car.
“I have a roof but it is not the same as having a room. I can put my seat all the way back but it is not a bed.
“People are surprised when I tell them I am homeless because I have a job, I am washed and my clothes are clean.
“It could happen to anybody. There is no t-shirt to declare we are homeless, it is not necessarily obvious to see.
“I used to be homeless but I managed to find a job and a spare room. It was a long time ago. I never thought I would be in that situation again.”
The NHS worker couldn’t find an affordable new place to move into as he needed to pay the first month’s rent and a deposit upfront – totalling almost £2,000 in some cases.
Bogumil added: “I do not have the money for both. It was unfortunate timing as it was also an expensive month for me with other bills.”
Since living in his car, he said his employers have been supporting him and he has been able to use the office’s microwave, showers and communal facilities.
He sleeps by reclining the front seat and covering himself in three blankets and three thick coats to stay warm.
A friend is letting him use the washing machine to wash his clothes and he is storing his belongings with another.
Bogumil, who has lived in Gravesham on and off for the past 30 years, did contact the council for help when he became homeless and has continued to apply for spare rooms.
He said he was not offered temporary accommodation because he is single and has no children so is not a top priority.
He said: “I am so angry with the lack of communication, it does not seem to bother anyone that I am living in my car.”
Bogumil has been told he could apply for a discretionary payment to help cover the cost of the rent – but only once he had secured a place to live.
Cost of living crisis hitting hard
Gravesham council’s cabinet member for housing services, Cllr Jenny Wallace, said: “We are extremely sorry for the situation Mr Kusiba finds himself in.
"Sadly, with the cost of living crisis hitting hard in recent months, it is the type of awful situation all too many individuals and families are facing.
“The demands on us to try and find homes for those who find themselves without a roof over their heads through no fault of their own are greater than they have ever been.
“We currently have more than 200 households in temporary accommodation. These record levels of demand have been consistent over many months now."
Cllr Wallace added: “Mr Kusiba advised us he would be sofa surfing and sleeping in his car near his place of work in Bexley, which is why he has not been verified as rough sleeping by the Gravesham rough sleeping team.
The council is expected to spend £2.7 million on temporary accommodation for the year 2023/24 as high interest rates and the cost-of-living crisis lead to record numbers of individuals approaching the authority for support.
Who gets priority accommodation?
Under the Housing Act 1996 (amended 2002), the priority need for temporary accommodation is given to certain groups of people who are considered particularly vulnerable.
These groups include pregnant women, individuals with dependent children, people who are vulnerable due to old age, mental illness or disability, and someone who is made homeless as a result of an emergency such as flood or fire.
Victims of domestic abuse also fall under this category and are entitled to priority need for temporary accommodation.
This is because such individuals require immediate assistance and protection, and temporary accommodation can provide a safe and secure place for them to stay until they are able to secure long-term housing.