Four-year ‘nightmare’ of homeless Cookstown man living in a tent

Colm Campbell says he has been living in a tent on and off for the last four years
Colm Campbell says he has been living in a tent on and off for the last four years

A Cookstown father who was jailed after pitching a tent outside the Housing Executive, has hit out at the lack of available homes in the area.

Colm Campbell told the Mail he has been living in a “nightmare” for the past four years - having to sleep rough at least five nights a week.

He lights a fire to keep himself warm while sleeping rough

He lights a fire to keep himself warm while sleeping rough

And although admitting to problems with addictions and the law in the past, said he’s trying hard to stay out of trouble, but needs somewhere to live to make a fresh start.

Blighted by the lack of affordable homes in the area, he told the Mail he has been offered beds in hostels across Northern Ireland - but just wants to live in Cookstown.

However, the Housing Executive, which said it is aware of Colm’s predicament, said Cookstown is an area of “high demand and low turnover”, adding that it has offered him temporary accommodation in a number of areas - “which was turned down”.

Asked why he won’t take up the offer of hostel accommodation, the 30-year-old said: “I am not moving to another hostel.

I sleep rough five or six nights a week... Cookstown, Armagh, Dungannon. Everywhere

Colm Campbell

“I am sick to the back teeth of hostels this last two years - I get into nothing but trouble in hostels.”

As well as having to sleep in a tent in freezing cold temperatures, Colm said he also finds it tough to make ends meet because of what he spends on takeaways. And even though he is battling to stay away from alcohol, he said drinking is the only thing that keeps him warm on the cold streets.

“I sleep rough five or six nights a week,” he explained,

“Cookstown, Armagh, Enniskillen, Dungannon. Everywhere.

Colm in his tent

Colm in his tent

“I move about because I’m sick of walking round the same old town.

“I am from Cookstown, but they moved me from Cookstown to Armagh Hostel, from Armagh to Downpatrick - then I went back to Cookstown Housing and told them I was homeless, they offered me this place in Belfast.

“It’s not possible for me to move to Belfast because I have contact with my daughter in Strabane and it’s hard enough for me to get from Cookstown, Armagh or Dungannon.

“I have been on the waiting list with Cookstown Housing this four years with 106 points,” he went on, “(but) they can’t give me a house.

“My mind is all over the place at the minute... housing is really getting me down.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said the organisation has assessed and reassessed Colm’s position on the information that he provided and has at each stage kept him informed of any changes.

“The Housing Executive is aware of this applicant’s situation and have actively sought accommodation on his behalf over the years,” they explained.

“We would encourage him to contact us so we can discuss his housing opportunities and carry out a further update of his housing need assessment.”