A FATHER and son were forced to live in a tent for six months in an attempt to keep their family together as they battled homelessness.

For the past six months, Shane Lingwood, 19, and his father Sean Ward, 56 have been living in a tent in Barnsley Cemetery after being evicted from a sheltered housing facility in April.

While there, their tent was repeatedly vandalised and what few possessions they had were stolen, leaving them with only the clothes they had on their back.

“Living in the tent was rough,” said Sean. “We would eat day to day and only had a small camping stove to cook on. Our tent got slashed about five times while we were living there and all our things were taken or thrown around the place so we ended up having to patch up our tent as best we could.

“Most mornings we would wake up wet from condensation or the rain. All our clothes were wet and our bedding was wet and in those times it was just really hard to get dry. Our tent had been slashed that many times that we didn’t want to leave it because we were scared that it would get slashed again, but we couldn’t sit in a wet tent all the time.”

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During their time in the tent, Shane became severely ill from pneumonia which was caused by the damp conditions they were living in.

“When Shane was ill it was really difficult,” said Sean. “I was going up to Mencap, eating and then going back down to the tent to care for him. I daren’t leave him for too long in case something happened to him. We don’t have phones or a fixed address so if he got taken to hospital or anything happened to me, we wouldn’t be able to contact the other to tell them what had happened.”

Before the pair began sleeping in the tent, Shane was attending Barnsley College where he studied music but was forced to leave his course due to becoming homeless and failing to keep up with his studies.

“I had my college card stolen while we were living in the tent which meant that I couldn’t go anymore,” said Shane. “It was a horrible time for me because I couldn’t go to college so I was in the tent the whole time and it’s really affected me.

“I turned 19 living in the tent and then I got really ill which isn’t a ‘normal’ way to grow up. Even now I sometimes still wake up and I think I am in the tent and I’m scared that things are going to be taken away from us again.”

Sean and Shane were put in contact with Local Mencap Barnsley who provided the pair with a hot meal and surplus food which was donated by local supermarkets. Over the months, the charity became a lifeline and was the only place they could access food. Each day Shane and Sean would visit the centre on Castlereagh Street to eat and get warm.

The pair now have now secured a flat thanks to the Homeless Alliance and Housing Options team and are now looking to the future.

“I am trained in reiki and I want to get back into doing that and get some clients,” said Sean. “I lost a lot of clients when we became homeless and I couldn’t do reiki in a leaky tent so there was no way of me getting money so hopefully with having this flat I can start to build up my client base again.”

Despite now having a flat to live in, Shane and Sean are still without heating, electricity and only have the clothes they are wearing. They are desperate for clothing and other utensils to make their flat a home. To donate, please take donations to the Local Mencap Barnsley office, Compass House, Castlereagh Street.