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Ben Summer

Man given just days to leave his childhood home of 50 years after dad and brother died

A Cardiff man has been told he needs to leave his childhood home by Monday despite his family and neighbours warning that he won't cope if he has to move. Darren Evans, 51, was previously told he would need to leave the three-bedroom council house on Heol-Yr-Odyn in Caerau after his brother and father died just months apart - and now his family say he's been given a deadline.

Darren's brother David died suddenly in July, 2021, aged 53, and their father (also named David, known as Dai) died in November of the same year. Darren, who has lived in the house his whole life, has since been grieving and his mental health is said to have deteriorated to the point of feeling suicidal.

He was told 14 months ago he'd need to leave the house, but he had to wait until Thursday, March 9, 2023 to find out for certain. His family claim he was was then told he had just four days, until Monday, March 13, to move into a one-bedroom flat. Darren's sister, Kathleen Evans, said she managed to convince the council's housing department to give him an extra week, until March 20, but his friends and family are desperate for a change of heart. You can get more Cardiff news and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.

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Darren said he was "gutted" and "shocked" to be told he was leaving the street he'd lived in since he was born. He said: "It’s just been too much, what they’re doing. It’s been horrible. They’re not considering what I need. It’s just getting worse because I’m getting depressed… it’s too much, like. I’ve lived here since I was born... we all look out for each other."

Darren (centre) has to leave his childhood home (Ben Summer / Media Wales)

Darren's family claimed the one-bedroom flat he had been offered was not suitable for his needs. They said he was on a Personal Independence Payment and might need a live-in carer in the immediate future. He can't read or write properly and often has friends and family stay overnight to keep an eye on him, something that would be difficult with just one room.

His sister Kathleen has offered either to start paying the bedroom tax on the additional rooms, or to give up her own three-bedroom council property and move in with Darren - which would free up both her three-bedroom house and the proposed one-bedroom flat to be offered out to someone else. But, she said, the council hadn't accepted her suggestion.

Kathleen said her dad died "of a broken heart" after losing his own son just four months earlier, adding that the deaths "ripped the heart out of the family," - Darren included. She said people regularly needed to drop-in to check on Darren: "He sits on the kitchen floor just rocking and watching the telly through the door. That’s not a life.

"He can’t stay on his own. There’s no way he’ll cope on his own when he’s been brought up with siblings, nephews, nieces, sisters and brothers-in-law around, and now he has a granddaughter and another on the way."

When we arranged to meet Darren for an interview, we thought it would just be a chat with him and Kathleen. But when we arrived at his house, half the neighbourhood had turned up. Family and friends wanted to make the case for him staying in his childhood home.

Darren's neighbours showed up to tell us why he should be allowed to stay in the house (Ben Summer / Media Wales)

Many of them grew up in Heol-Yr-Odyn with him, or saw their kids grow up alongside his. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the living room, they started trading stories about their childhoods on the street, and before long they got on to Darren's situation.

"He needs his family and his friends around him," said one neighbour, with another adding: "We’re not neighbours, we’re family.... our children have grown up together." Another said Darren "just needs the stability of his house" after what he's been through, and several agreed that it was a "very special street."

Jane Power, a friend and former neighbour who has known Darren for decades, said: "We grew up together… to see him being turfed out of his home is heartbreaking. This is something very rare, this street.

"You can’t possibly begin to understand until you’ve lived in it. Communities are very rare. It’s a community and a family in one. There’s still his father’s stuff here, still his brother’s stuff here - I really can’t understand how it’s come to this, why they wouldn’t just let him stay here."

Darren, Michael, Jane and Darren grew up in Heol-Yr-Odyn together, and all except Jane still live there - she now lives around the corner (Ben Summer / Media Wales)

Jane recalled growing up "as siblings" with Darren and the other kids on the street, adding: "If someone strange started picking on anyone when we were out, you had your band of brothers with you. My mum used to organise nights out for the parents… and for the kids, they’d take them to Barry Island or Butlins for the day, and we would have a full day there. Mum would make sure there was enough to get a Cardiff bus hired to go… or we’d go to the pantomime - we’d always do something as a street."

Darren's sister Kathleen said the family's nice memories in the house had been "wiped out" by the council's involvement. She added: "I’ve said to Darren and I’ve said to the housing officer about me giving up my three-bedroom property to take the tenancy on in this three-bedroom property and [the council] can have mine. I can’t see any reason on God’s green earth why [they] can’t agree to it.

"They can still send him bills for council tax and they’ve sent him letters in my dad’s name asking for rent arrears - they know he’s been dead for 14 months, and he was never in arrears because he couldn’t work due to COPD so the DWP paid his rent direct."

Kathleen was concerned about Darren's mental health, which she said had got worse since the two bereavements and could deteriorate further if he had to leave the family home. In 2022, Darren told WalesOnline: "I just feel suicidal and depressed all the time. I won't be able to carry on if I have to move."

Kathleen is worried about Darren's mental health (Ben Summer / Media Wales)

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Darren's 36-year-old nephew Daniel Evans, stood in the doorway to his grandpa's room, and said it was more than a council house - it was Darren's "family home." Through the doorway, Darren's father's possessions are still piled high on the bed. Darren often spends his evenings sitting on the floor nearby.

Daniel said: "It’s terrible to see him like that… just sat on the floor like that, upset. No person should have their family home taken off them - all these people around us aren’t neighbours, they’re family. Each person has played a part in our lives, everyone knows each other, and they’re brilliant.

"For my uncle, it’s heartbreaking to see him like this. He doesn’t deserve it, especially after everything he’s gone through in the last months."

He said Darren and his brother David were like Del Boy and Rodney: "They’d go out and do the gardening for the neighbours and everything, and you had my grampy in the back room like Granddad - listening to his old music, doing his crossword puzzles, and having the grandchildren over every day."

Darren's nephew Daniel said his dad and uncle were like "Del Boy and Rodney" (Ben Summer / Media Wales)

Darren is clearly well-loved by his neighbours, and helps one - Ian Jones - out with basic tasks like reading his electric meter and booking GP appointments, as Ian is partially-sighted. Other neighbours said when their relatives had become ill, Darren would keep an eye out for them.

Darren was initially offered a one-bedroom flat in Spinney Close in Ely, but not given a date for when he had to move out. At the time, the law on tenancy succession only allowed one succession per property, which had already taken place for Darren's house.

A change in the law in December, 2022, allows two successions in some circumstances - but the new law still allows councils to move people to smaller accommodation if their property is deemed too big for their needs - and in any case, wouldn't apply here due to the timing of Darren's father's death.

Alison Swain - a care worker who used to live next door and still lives nearby - felt the accommodation offered to Darren would not be suitable. She volunteers to help out, sitting with Darren and talking about his mental health. She said: "He’s going through a very, very bad time. I've been staying overnight and now he’s on PiP he could get proper care but they have to stay the night. He’s, 51, he knows nothing else other than this house. Upstairs, it’s like a shrine [to his father and brother. There’s not that many places like this… I moved a few streets away but I still have a lot to do with the people over here."

Alison Swain helps the family care for Darren (Ben Summer / Media Wales)

Another neighbour, Shirley Greenfield, who has lived across the road since 1965, added: "I think it’s disgusting what the housing did to Darren. He’s lived here all his life, he was born in this house and I’ve known him since the day he was born. He’s never brought any trouble… it’s downright disgusting."

Billy Bowley, who has lived down the road from Darren for 50 years, said the deaths "hit the road really hard." Talking about the loss of Dai and David was visibly emotional for everyone we spoke to, with several people having to stop themselves crying. Billy added: "Dai was a brilliant fella, he had a heart of gold. I used to have him working for me and you’d go into the boozer, and he’d say: ‘Anyone for a pint?’

"I said I hadn’t had a Pontefract cake for ages, next day I came here and there was a box of them. He was an early bird… you’d see him outside the house at 6am and know the world was right. These are family, and it would be nice to have Kath here."

One neighbour, Diane Wheadon, summed up her thoughts: "I’ve known these kids all their lives. I feel they’ve just been treated like animals, not like human beings… there’s no heart there at all."

A spokesperson for Cardiff Council said: "The rules around succession to a council property did change under the Renting Homes Act which was implemented in December, 2022, however as Mr Evans’ father, who had already succeeded the tenancy of the property, sadly passed away before the legislation came into effect, this would have no impact on his situation.

"We have, however, offered Mr Evans a suitable one-bed property which meets his needs, based on the information currently available. Mr Evans has accepted this offer. If further medical evidence supporting the need for an additional bedroom is provided in future, Mr Evans’ circumstances will be reassessed.

"Mr Evans was allowed additional time to move into his new property. Mr Evans’ sister also is not entitled to succeed to the tenancy. While a suggestion was made very recently that Mr Evans’ sister could exchange her current property for the family home, this would not be in line with the council’s Allocation Policy. With the current exceptionally high demand for council homes, it is more important than ever that these are allocated fairly, and to those who are most in need of the property."


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