‘Is there not one person on this island who can help us?’
TWO women in Alderney who say they will soon be homeless because of a fire in a neighbouring building have made desperate appeals to fellow islanders for help.
Landscape gardener Claire Cotton, 39, and former nurse Sally Ann Jones, 59, were asleep in their flats behind the Harbour Lights restaurant in Newtown when the blaze broke out in the early hours of 4 April.
A resident of another flat was flown by helicopter to hospital in Guernsey, suffering from smoke inhalation, after Miss Cotton raised the alarm.
The fire destroyed the electrical system that the flats shared. Since then, while the resident in whose property the fire started has moved into a family home, Miss Cotton and Ms Jones have remained, having to make do with torches and battery operated lamps.
Repairs, they have been told, will take two months and require the water supply to be turned off.
Their landlord’s insurance, they have been informed, does not cover rehousing them while work is being carried out.
Appeals on social media, including paying for rental accommodation or in an empty building, such as the States-owned Old Connaught, have failed to elicit any positive response.
A complicating issue is the three dogs which they want to bring with them. The two women, who have both suffered from mental health issues, are classed as vulnerable adults.
But there appears to be no policy on Alderney concerning emergency housing for people effectively rendered homeless, with or without pets.
According to Miss Cotton, they have been told that while building insurance covers the repair work, which will necessitate taking the ceiling down, loss adjusters have advised that it does not cover temporary accommodation for her and Ms Jones. Nonetheless, they must move out in order for repair works to be carried out.
This week Miss Cotton has posted increasingly desperate appeals on Facebook for help.
‘Sally and I need somewhere to live as soon as possible,’ she wrote.
‘Through no fault of our own we must leave home with our dogs for two months due to no electricity, hot water etc, none of which can be fixed until we are out. It’s going to be a bomb site.
‘We are happy to pay rent, we are non-drinkers, just two boring women who have not received any help from the States.
‘I cannot believe we are going to be reduced to finding an empty building to squat in. Is there really not one person on this island who can help?’
A spokeswoman for the States said emergency accommodation was a matter for the Alderney Housing Association.
AHA manager Mark Bristow said his organisation had no mandate to maintain emergency accommodation and that there was a waiting list for social housing units.
‘It doesn’t look like there is any policy for emergency accommodation on Alderney,’ he said. ‘We provide rental accommodation and partial ownership properties. We don’t have a remit to provide any kind of emergency accommodation. That would potentially mean the States subsidising an empty property.’
Miss Cotton said as a last resort perhaps someone had a tent they could borrow to camp outside the Island Hall. She added: ‘It’s disappointing that in such a close community that no one has been able to help.’
States member Graham McKinley said he was looking into the matter.