The plight of a man forced to spend the winter in a tent pitched in a public park has revealed the extent of Croydon’s housing crisis.

Steven Mattin, 43, has camped every night in South Norwood County Park since August, using leisure centres to shower and eating junk food.

Croydon Council refused to add him to its housing waiting list because he "did not fit" its criteria and told him to move elsewhere – despite him working in the borough.

He now fears being thrown out of the park, where his tent and belongings are hidden among bushes, after receiving a note ordering him to leave.

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Mr Mattin, who suffers from epilepsy, works three hours a day handing out City AM newspapers at Thornton Heath station for the £6.50-an-hour minimum wage, leaving his tent at the park.

He said: “I get up at 3am or 4am and leave it there all day. I have my life there basically.

 “I’ve gone through four tents since August because people have come up and gone through it and ripped holes in it. But it is the best place I know and it’s close to where I work.

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He added: “I use swimming baths to wash. Lewisham is the cheapest. I charge my phone up at the libraries. I could keep perishable foods in the winter but now it’s getting warmer I have to go back on to junk food.

“I can have seizures at any time. It is precarious, my position. But I have to make do, it is the only way.”

Mr Mattin was left homeless after his jobseeker’s allowance payments were stopped because he worked occasional shifts as waiter, meaning he breached the 16-hours-a-week limit at which the benefit is cut off.

Without guaranteed income he could no longer afford the £700 rent for a room in a seven-bed house in Hounslow.

He said: “It is really seasonal what I do – Christmas time and just before summer. I’d say 70 per cent of the year I’m on less than £400 a month.

“The minimum wage is going up by about 10p a year and house prices are going up all the time. If I had the chance I would campaign to bring the minimum wage up. They are laughing, the Government, really.”


Mr Mattin, who grew up in Gillingham and moved to London in 1991, said: “I’m signed to three [employment] agencies and normally I work in Hiltons.

“I work in some plush places and I’m homeless. It’s a joke.

"But what can I do?”

After being made homeless he moved to South Norwood to be closer to work, but initially did not apply for housing because he “knew he wouldn’t get it”.

He set up an appointment with Croydon Council’s housing department at Bernard Weatherill House six weeks ago after “becoming desperate”.

However, Mr Mattin said the council told him to “move back to Hounslow”, despite him having worked in Croydon for two years.

A council spokesman said: “When it comes to specialist housing support, the council has to give priority to people with the most challenging health and employment prospects, and our thorough assessment found Mr Mattin did not fit those criteria.

“We recommended that he either go into private accommodation locally or contact boroughs where he has stronger connections if he still wishes to pursue specialist housing support.”

The council said it had not issued Mr Mattin with a hand-written note, left at his tent earlier in March, ordering him to stop camping in the park.

It also denied that a mystery man who visited Mr Mattin and told him to leave was a council employee.

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