Mother-of-three reveals what is was like to be homeless amid lockdown

Homeless mother who was living in a single room in a B&B with her three children at the start of lockdown says people who complain about being stuck in their houses should be ‘grateful for what they’ve got’

  • Diane Birkby of Leeds and her three children were homeless at start of lockdown
  • The trio eventually ended up in a one room B&B which was paid for by a charity
  • Diane said emotions were high with three children all cramped into one room
  • Youngest, 3, has condition meaning she’s ‘at risk’ of Covid-19 and stuck indoors
  • Diane says people who are in quarantine should be grateful they have a home 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

A mother-of-three who was homeless at the beginning of lockdown has said people stuck in quarantine should be grateful to have a roof over their head.

Diane Birkby, from Leeds, ended up in a one room B&B which was paid for by a charity before she was eventually temporarily housed by the city council. 

Speaking to Sky News, she told how emotions were ‘up and down’ when she and her brood were cramped in a small bedroom.

Her daughter, who is three, has a condition which means she is ‘at risk’ of catching Covid-19, meaning the family-of-four had to remain indoors to prevent infection. 

Diane Birkby, from Leeds, was homeless at the beginning of lockdown and says people stuck in quarantine should be grateful to have a roof over their head

‘My oldest boy had already been through a lot, so obviously this on top, they were just unsettled, they were constantly arguing,’ Diane said.

‘You can’t keep a three-year-old in a one room for, what, 48 hours. You can’t, and it’s too risky for her to go out, and you’re trying to keep the noise down all the time in case the owners wanted you out because of the noise levels.

‘It was horrible, it felt like I couldn’t be a proper mum to them. I was stressing, that I was being short with them, they were being short with me, it was just constant arguments, that ain’t how it should be.’

Diane said she struggled with the guilt that she wasn’t able to provide for her children, but did the best she could. 

Diane said she struggled with the guilt that she wasn’t able to provide for her children, but did the best she could

‘I couldn’t provide them a roof, I couldn’t provide them stability, but at the end of the day, I tried. I was trying to do the best I could for them,’ she said. 

Diane added that people across the country who are currently stuck in their homes shouldn’t complain about the lockdown.

‘They should just be grateful because there are a lot of people out there who are on the streets, who can’t get homed, that are needing a roof over their head,’ she said.

‘Fair enough, you’re in quarantine, but you’ve got a roof over your head, you’ve got your own homely belongings.

‘People take that for granted, it shouldn’t be took for granted.’

Diane pointed out that there are still many people who are living on the streets ‘freezing at night’, adding: ‘Just be grateful and thankful for what they’ve got.’

Diane’s daughter, who is three, has a condition which means she is ‘at risk’ of catching Covid-19, meaning the family-of-four had to remain indoors to prevent infection when they were temporarily put up in a one room B&B, funded by a charity

Diane’s comments follows the news that the UK government is set to extend the UK lockdown for another three weeks.

Earlier today we reported how more than 1,000 homeless people in London are now safely self-isolating in hotels after being taken off the streets.

Rough sleepers are more likely to have underlying health conditions, particularly respiratory ones, than the rest of the population. They also have little access to handwashing or hygiene facilities.

So the Intercontinental Hotel Group, Travelodge, Best Western and Accor are all giving up rooms across the capital to make sure homeless Londoners are protected from the deadly virus.

The scheme is being run by homeless charity St Mungo’s and funded by a £10.55million grant from the Mayor of London and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Speaking to Sky News, Diane told how emotions were ‘up and down’ when she and her brood were cramped in a small bedroom

Black cab drivers, who are suffering a chronic lack of jobs amid the shutdown, have also volunteered to drive rough sleepers to their new accommodation. 

A catering company called Red Radish is providing all those signed up to the scheme with three meals a day.

From this week anyone who is homeless and develops symptoms of COVID-19 will be taken to a special care facility at a hotel in east London where their symptoms can be monitored properly.

The 11,329 coronavirus deaths across Britain does not include rough sleepers unless they were picked up by ambulances on patrol by chance and taken to hospital.

A homeless man is pictured on the streets of central London today amid the coronavirus lockdown

This makes it near impossible to decipher the scale of the virus crisis among the homeless population.

As well as London, homeless people in other cities are also being offered greater protection from the deadly bug with the help of the Mungo’s scheme.

In Bournemouth, so far 55 people have been given spaces, with more to still to be housed. Everyone in isolation is being supported with phone calls and food deliveries.

In Bristol 150 people who were on the streets are now safely in accommodation and 50 people who were staying in St Mungo’s services in communal sleeping spaces have also been given alternative accommodation to self-isolate safely.

Rough sleepers in Oxford, Reading and Brighton are also being assisted.

Staff in St Mungo’s accommodation services are following guidance from the Government and Public Health England to keep clients and staff safe, and together with sector partners, pushing for more from Government for our keyworkers and clients over coming months.

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