Gloucestershire

Birch family 'not animals' after 300 anti-social incidents

Birch family
Image caption The Birch family were evicted from their Gloucester home in December

A family with a string of health problems say they have been treated by officials like "animals" after they spent several nights sleeping rough.

Jane Beard and Michael Birch, and daughters, Trudie, 28, and Ellen, 23, were evicted by Gloucester City Council for anti-social behaviour.

Michael, Ellen and Trudie Birch could face jail after breaching injunctions.

The family is now in temporary housing in Stroud after refusing other offers of accommodation, the council said.

The Birch family's situation was highlighted in the local and national media with them being involved in more than 300 incidents of anti-social behaviour.

Image caption Michael Birch blamed his neighbours "for being difficult"

Jane Beard, 53, and her partner Michael Birch, 69, are both in poor health and use wheelchairs.

The family were evicted from their home in Russell Street, Gloucester in December after living there since August.

They said they then "squatted in buildings and in doorways" until earlier last month.

When the temperature fell below freezing in January, the council put the parents up for six days in the Dorchester House B&B in the city, while Trudie and Ellen slept rough and squatted in a nearby disused building.

Image caption B&B manager Lynn Horsley said the couple had not caused any problems during their stay

B&B manager Lynn Horsley said Ms Beard and Mr Birch were "very polite" and "always washed the plates up".

"I felt bad [when they had to leave] because they are human beings, you don't treat people like that," she said.

"She's ill and he's got double pneumonia. If they're going to be out and the weather keeps coming in, you're going to have two dead people."

Ms Beard, who also has diabetes, said she had "had enough" and blamed the council for "doing nothing".

She said: "I'm so angry. We're being pulled from pillar to post. We're human - not caged animals. Everybody has their ups and downs.

"My girls shout, because Trudie is partly deaf and Ellen is a vulnerable adult, she shouts too [which led to complaints about noise].

"[I'm worried] about my daughters because they are so vulnerable.

"And worried Michael will die - he's been told this."

Image caption Claire Tonks said they had reported the family between 40 and 60 times

But former neighbour Claire Tonks, said it was "fabulous" the family no longer lived next door as she would not have to tolerate them "feeding seagulls through the windows".

She said; "The smell from the house was horrendous, you could smell urine, faeces. You couldn't have windows or doors open because of the smell and the noise.

"We reported them about 40 to 60 times but that doesn't include all the minor things".

Image caption Trudie Birch wanted her "mum and dad to have a safe place" to live

A Gloucestershire County Council spokesman said offers of accommodation had been made previously to the family which they had refused.

"We have been working together to look at potential solutions. Families often present themselves to us with a variety of challenges and difficulties," he said.

"We, along with our partner agencies have responsibilities to all those we come in contact with, no matter what the circumstances."

Gloucester City Homes said the family had been referred to numerous support services and agencies "over many years".

"However [they] have failed to engage with each. Many opportunities have been provided to help them change their behaviour."

Michael, Ellen and Trudie Birch are due to appear for sentencing at Gloucester County Court on Wednesday for breaching anti-social behaviour injunctions, which have been in place since last October.

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