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FIGHTING TO STAY: Gateshead pensioner pays tribute to volunteers

FIGHTING TO STAY: Gateshead pensioner pays tribute to volunteers

Ken May in his freshly painted hallway, Image Chronicle Live

A Gateshead pensioner has paid tribute to the volunteers who have been helping keep him in the council house he’s lived in since he was a baby.

Ken May moved into his council house in 1955 when he was a just a year old, but now faces being kicked out.

The 67-year-old has lived in Standfield Gardens, Wardley for 66 years, where he also cared for his dying mum.

He has no mains electricity, instead using a petrol generator and a wind turbine to charge car batteries and stores Calor gas canisters in his home.

At a county court hearing on September 29 a district judge blasted the storage of fuel as “dangerous” and backed Gateshead Council’s bid to evict him as the property had deteriorated.

Mr May was given 28 days to vacate the property, however if he can show evidence that he has cleaned it up he can apply at court for eviction proceedings to be halted.

Council correspondence seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service said it wouldn’t apply for a warrant of possession for the next six months.

However, he has to keep his home clean and tidy, get rid of his car batteries and generators and have his electricity reconnected.

Mr May is also expected to  report all repairs promptly to the authority and allow access for repairs to take place, and allow access for regular inspections.

He thanked neighbours and volunteers who have come from as far as Middlesbrough and Alnwick.

He said: “It has been amazing, I have had help from my neighbours and volunteers.

“It’s the kindness of strangers, you wouldn’t believe it.”

Mr May estimates that he has had help from between 20 and 30 people, including volunteers from community litter-busters the Wardley Wombles,  who have re-painted his house, chopped down a hedge and cleared his kitchen.

Three local women also clubbed together to buy him a new bed.

He continued: “A lad came through with a trimmer and cut down all the brambles.

“A barber saw the thing on Facebook and came up from Middlesbrough and gave me a hair cut and beard trim.

“Three women pooled together and ordered me a brand new bed.

“People have painted my house and provided the paint.

“Its astonishing the empathy people have shown me”

Trainee social worker Claire Hamilton has been working with Mr May coordinating the volunteers and advocating for him to Gateshead Council.

Ms Hamilton is not connected with any organisation and is helping Mr May on an entirely voluntary basis.

She said: “I got involved because one of my best friends was helping Ken.

“He is very intelligent, lovely, lovely man.

“The neighbours have been fantastic, they have been very welcoming, there has been a lot of volunteers  coming in and out of the estate and a lot of disruption for them but they have been very supportive.

“We have been concentrating on one room at a time boxing everything up and then Ken goes through it, he forked out for a skip and got rid of a lot of garden waste.

“We’re now trying to get Ken warm for Christmas and get his electricity reconnected.

“We want to get him set up so he can have a proper Christmas.

“Ken has put a lot of trust in me and I’m very grateful for that so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he is happy and settled.”

Gateshead Council have been contacted for comment.


Words: Herbert Soden, Local Democracy Reporter

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