Homeless couple say ‘people treat us all the same’ on ‘dangerous’ Croydon streets

By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy Reporter

Pushing his partner of 27 years along the greyscale boulevards surrounding Wellesley Road, Shane Dyson turns and said: “You do get some nice people, but the problem is that everyone thinks you’re the same if you’re homeless. It’s horrible.”

Mr Dyson, 43, and his partner Annmarie McDonagh, 50, have been street homeless for the last two years.

They said that despite their constant efforts and complex disability needs, they feel forgotten.

Mr Dyson and Ms McDonagh met in Croydon’s Shrublands Estate almost 30 years ago. Five years ago, the pair were staying together in Ms McDonagh’s mother’s house in the borough.

Shane and Annmarie often stay in car parks until they are moved on by security guards (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

But, when she died, the pair lost their accommodation and began their cycle of intermittent homelessness. Mr Dyson previously worked as a satellite installation specialist and handyman but was forced into a full-time carer role when his partner became wheelchair-bound three years ago.

He said: “She went into hospital with stomach ulcers but it turned out she had blood poisoning and had seven aneurysms in her brain, which meant seven brain operations and keyhole surgery. During the operation, they popped her artery and she lost her leg because of that.”

A brief ray of hope came in the form of the shared accommodation the pair had  in Dornton Road, South Croydon more than two years ago. This property, run by Caridon Property, but leased to them as temporary accommodation by Croydon council, was adapted for wheelchair accessibility and suited Ms Annmarie’s needs.

Shane James Dyson and Annmarie McDonagh battling the cold and windy Wellesley Road (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

But, one day the pair returned home from the shops to find they had been locked out of the property.

Mr Dyson, born in Croydon, said: “It just came out of nowhere, it was a shock.

“Now the council are even denying that we were tenants there, we can prove we’re tenants. I had my mail going there from my bank account going there.”

According to Mr Dyson, the pair were never given a reason for their eviction.

A spokesman from Caridon said: “While Caridon Property Ltd manages some of the flats in the building, the specific unit in question is leased to the local council for temporary emergency accommodation. The couple were occupants under a license to occupy with the council as their landlord.”

The couple have been working with a Croydon-based volunteer named Avril since their eviction two years ago. Avril believes the pair have suffered because of mistakes made by the council.

Shane said: “All we’ve got is what we stand in” (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

Avril said: “When I spoke to the adult social workers at the council about Annmarie’s needs I was given the royal run around. One social worker said they were not helping her and the next said they were.”

Avril believes the lack of proper support from either party has helped to perpetuate the situation.

Caridon said: “The decision to terminate their accommodation was made by the council nearly two years ago. They were provided with a two-week extension following the cancellation of their placement.”

Mr Dyson lost his eye after being stabbed in the face a number of years ago. This was just one example of the extreme violence the pair faced while sleeping rough on the streets of Croydon.

Shane and Annmarie say they stay away from other homeless people to keep safe (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

Mr Dyson said: “About two years ago in the subway opposite the tram station, two gangs of boys were fighting with each other when we were asleep in the subway. They threw a liquid on me that turned out to be acid, and it paralyzed my left hand.

“Croydon is a very dangerous place. Especially at night.

“On top of that, all of our stuff keeps getting nicked.”

Among the personal items frequently stolen are the couple’s IDs. Their absence means that it becomes almost impossible for them to pick up the vital medication they need for their disabilities.

Despite their daily battle for food, shelter and security the pair insist they still encounter human kindness.

Mr Dyson said: “Manners don’t cost nothing, some of these security guards treat you with respect. They know who is who and who causes the trouble.”

Croydon council was approached for comment but failed to respond in time for publication.

Pictured top: Shane James Dyson and Annmarie McDonagh have been street homeless for the past two years (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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