Fire guts squatters’ makeshift home

Scottsdene residents have started building new places for shelter.

Squatters living under sails on a Scottsdene pavement need donations of food, clothes and blankets after a Friday the 13th fire destroyed their shelter.

Carlton May said he and neighbours had been sitting around a fire for warmth, a short distance from their shelters in Long Street on Friday night.

He went to fetch cups and a pot to make coffee when he noticed the fire and called for help.

“I got there and saw the flames right up against the wall of the flats, and I ran to my friends for help. All of us helped to put the fire out. Now I have nothing, my clothes, shoes, blankets and sail is gone; we already have nothing,” he said.

Sharlene Smith said she had watched as her belongings had gone up in smoke.

“I am sitting with nothing,” she said.

“All I have is the clothes on my back, and I am getting some food from my neighbours. I now have a new sail, which means I have to start from scratch.”

The squatters say no one was injured in the fire, which started at about 10pm. They have been living under the sails in Long and Melody streets for the past four months after being evicted from Sunset Village flats, owned by Calgro M3 Consortium, on April 4 (“Illegal occupants evicted,” Northern News, April 4).

Councillor Grant Twigg suggested the squatters move back to where they had come from.

“Some of them were backyarders and others lived in houses. They have to wait like everyone else on the waiting list,” he said.

Fire and Rescue services’ Theo Layne said firefighters had responded to the fire at about 10pm. It had been caused by a burning candle that had toppled over.

Community leader Peter Syster said: “I am unemployed at the moment, so I cannot make a contribution to help the four families. They, including women and children, have lost everything and cannot even go to school today because there clothes are burnt.”

He said anyone wanting to help the families could call him at 074 836 9030.