A couple has revealed how the housing crisis has left them living in their car for the past two months.
Tina and Winston Reid, both 54, fear they could die over the freezing winter and have been warned it could be two years before they get a home.
Housing experts recently warned of the plight of older private renters who are struggling with high costs and insecurity well into retirement.
The Reids had been renting a privately-owned house in Romford, Essex, but were forced to leave when their landlord decided to sell.
The pair initially bought a caravan and lived in that for two years in nearby Thurrock.
But disaster struck in September last year when the caravan got a sewage problem and forced them onto the streets.
Tina said: ‘The stench was horrible, we couldn’t wash or shower or go to the toilet.
‘We were going over to Sainsbury’s just to wash, change our clothes and brush our teeth. After three months I couldn’t take it anymore.’
The pair, who both rely on benefits, are now braving freezing temperatures in former bricklayer Winston’s Mercedes.
They are worried they will freeze amid warnings from the Met Office of snow showers and strong, icy winds.
Tina says their situation is so desperate that she has even attempted to take her own life.
She explained: ‘I have called around 40 houses but they won’t take us as we don’t have a guarantor and they ask for so much money upfront.
‘I’m on Employment Support Allowance and my husband is on Universal Credit, and we have to use that money to stay in rooms for a night where we can, just to get out of the cold.’
The Reids have driven their car to Mersea, Essex, to be closer to Tina’s parents but they can’t stay with the elderly couple as they only have a one-bed flat.
Tina sleeps in the back of the Mercedes while Winston is in the front seat.
She continued: ‘We have both been to A&E recently. I was there because I tried to take my own life, I couldn’t take it anymore.
‘My husband was there because of his back, it’s painful being in the car.
‘Winston is 55 this year and when you reach 55 you’re entitled to sheltered housing.
‘However his birthday is in May and we could be dead by then. I’m worried we are going to die here.’
Tina said that they were told by Thurrock Council they couldn’t find housing for them as they hadn’t been living there long enough.
They found a place for the Reids’ daughter and her three children, whose neighbouring caravan was also affected by the sewage problem.
Tina and Winston now fall under the remit of Colchester Council, who have warned them it could be two years before they get somewhere to live.
A spokesman for Colchester Borough Homes said: ‘It is difficult to determine the length of time an applicant will have to wait for specific property types to become available, as applicants are able to decide this by bidding on properties.
‘In general, most applicants wait in excess of 18 to 24 months.’
Shelter told Metro.co.uk that an extra 690,000 homes were needed for people over the age of 55 who were struggling with high housing costs and insecurity beyond retirement.
There are currently 785,000 households over the age of 55 who are privately renting.
Greg Beales, Campaign Director at Shelter, said: ‘Our housing crisis and the dire shortage of social housing is creating a timebomb for older generations.
‘By 2040, as many as one-third of 60-year-olds could be renting privately, facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction at any point.
‘Not only is this crisis ruining retirement for hundreds of thousands, it’s also making it impossible for our country to adapt for the future and meet the needs of our ageing society.’