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Battle on the home front

PUBLISHED: 18:50 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 15:08 03 July 2010

NEW BATTLE: Gary Chaplin with his two-year-old son Kaiden.

NEW BATTLE: Gary Chaplin with his two-year-old son Kaiden.

A DEDICATED former serviceman whose dreams of rising through the Army ranks ended when his girlfriend died from complications following the birth of their son, is just days away from homelessness

No longer able to live with his mother and her new husband, a combination of out-of-reach rents and a lack of social housing mean Gary Chaplin and two-year-old Kaiden have no place to call home and are unexpectedly adding to homelessness statistics.

A DEDICATED former serviceman whose dreams of rising through the Army ranks ended when his girlfriend died from complications following the birth of their son, is just days away from homelessness

No longer able to live with his mother and her new husband, a combination of out-of-reach rents and a lack of social housing mean Gary Chaplin and two-year-old Kaiden have no place to call home and are unexpectedly adding to homelessness statistics.

Despite working full-time, the cost of childcare and paying off loans mean the 21-year-old is below the bottom rung of the housing ladder and struggling to make sense of a housing points system that does not give him priority.

“This is the worst position I have been in, in my life. But if I curl up in a ball what is going to get done? I need to do something and I do not want to be moping about in front of my little boy,” he said.

“I am not looking for preferential treatment. I can understand there are people in a much worse position than me, but to feel I have at least been accounted for and not tossed aside would be something.”

Having achieved his boyhood dream of joining the Army, Gary earned early promotion to lance corporal with the Royal Signals. Having spent two years working towards qualifications and another two trade-training mainly in Germany, he was preparing for a tour in Iraq when his life changed forever.

Speaking in quiet, measured tones that belie his years and the gravity of his situation Gary told this week how he and Rebecca Iverson from Repps had come to embrace the prospect of parenthood and had talked of marriage.

Although the pregnancy was not planned, Rebecca, 17, was keen to continue her studies at Great Yarmouth College and make a success of her life. However she developed a blood clotting disorder, and later the hospital-acquired C-diff infection, and died in her sleep having held her son only a handful of times.

Coping with bereavement and fatherhood meant turning his back on the Army and accepting a compassionate discharge. Back in Great Yarmouth, a single father but determined to work, he soon found a position with Applied Satellite Testing, part of the Gardline group, in a help-desk role that uses his systems knowledge. Grateful to his employers for the opportunity and their flexibility and understanding he is however saddened by the borough councilhousing authority's “no chance” attitude when he says he is doing all he can to help himself.

Having been on the housing waiting list for a year his situation has become suddenly more urgent now his taxi-driver mother has to move out of the home she rents in Palgrave Road.

“I want to be working and I want to be self sufficient. I do not want to be trawling through a system like this. I had a good career with prospects and travel, I did not have a care in the world.

“When it first happened I was muddling through the best I could, the paternal instinct did not come easily, I didn't have a clue and I could never have managed without my mum. Now I do not even have a home and I wonder if I was a single female parent and not working would I get a house? My girlfriend had a two bedroom house waiting for her in Martham when she came out of hospital with the baby. Two years later I am in the same situation but have nothing.

“My grievance with the local authority is the manner in which I was dealt with - simply being told I had no chance.

“This is all new to me, the prospect of being homeless is not something that had ever crossed my mind at all and to get such a lack of support is not very reassuring. The support I am being offered is nil but I need a solution - it is not just me I have to worry about.

“If the worst came to the worst I could stay at a friend's but that is not a permanent answer and I do not want to be dragging my child from house to house.”

Mark Burns, head of community services at Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “As far as we are concerned we are still in the process of trying to help him. People in need like this come and see our housing options team and we will try to help them find a solution which may include us looking for housing for them. Each case is different.”

Gary moved to Norfolk when he was nine and was a pupil at Wroughton Middle and Flegg High schools. Joining the Army was all he ever wanted to do and being with Rebecca, his girlfriend of two years, made his life complete.

After she died he left the Army with two months' pay while his unit was away in Iraq. His clothes were sent on two months later.

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