A BRITISH man is sleeping on the streets of Huddersfield – after officials decided he doesn’t have enough links to this country to qualify for help.
Dewsbury-born Colin Atkinson returned to the UK this month after losing his inheritance in the Philippines.
But the 54-year-old – who is registered blind and suffers from epilepsy – has been refused any help because he was out of the country for four years.
The Department for Work and Pensions has refused Mr Atkinson any benefits until he shows “close ties” to Britain.
And Kirklees Council has told him that the only homeless hostel in Huddersfield is for asylum seekers only.
Mr Atkinson feels let down. “If you’ve been out of the country for 12 months you are classed as an immigrant, that’s why I’ve been living on the streets.
“It seems that the system is working for the people who are coming from abroad and not for me, even though I’m from this country. There’s nothing for us,” he said.
“I went to the Civic Centre and they told me they couldn’t give me anything, I would have to wait for months.
“I don’t get any benefits so I can’t get anywhere to sleep.
“I thought there would have been some support network – at least a hostel. Clare House is the only hostel here in Huddersfield but it’s not for us.
“It’s a big town is Huddersfield and there are lots of people sleeping rough here because there’s nowhere for British people to go.”
Mr Atkinson’s health is deteriorating as he spends each night outside in unseasonably low temperatures.
“I’m sleeping in Greenhead Park and it’s not the weather for sleeping outside,” he said. “I’ve got high blood pressure and I’m quite sick.
“I used to have a seizure every couple of weeks but now it happens every day. Epilepsy is made worse by stress and sleeping on the streets is very stressful.
“I had a seizure in Greenhead Park on Tuesday morning. I just blacked out and felt nauseous.
“It’s a bit scary because you don’t know if someone is going to steal something. There’s a lot of rough people roaming around the park.”
Mr Atkinson grew up in Dewsbury and lived on Abbey Road in Fartown before moving to Bridlington in 1996.
He met his wife Emma Barrea, then aged 32, while on holiday in Cyprus in 2004.
The couple married in the Philippines two years later and Mr Atkinson moved to the Asian country in 2008.
“We bought a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Naga City for £10,000,” he said.
“We paid half each but foreigners can’t own anything, everything has to be in the Filipino’s name.
“I got about £50,000 inheritance when my mother died and I spent it all over there on improving the house and buying a restaurant.”
Mr Atkinson separated from his wife a year after he arrived in the country when he discovered he was not the biological father of their two children.
“She was having an affair with someone else and I was bringing up children who were not mine,” he said.
“Christopher was born in 2006 and Mary Coleen in 2008. Somebody said to me that they looked very dark skinned.
“I did a DNA test and it showed the children weren’t mine. I was very upset.
“We separated and she kept everything because it was all in her name.
“Unknown to me, she sold the house.”
With nowhere to live, Mr Atkinson made the 235-mile journey to the Filipino capital of Manila to look for help.
“I went to the British embassy. They said it was not their problem and they had no duty to help me get home,” he said.
“I was begging on the streets for two years. I was sleeping in the park or outside the cathedral.
“I got all my things stolen by people with knives and guns.
“My family wouldn’t send any money over. A few weeks ago an Australian felt sorry for me and he bought me a ticket to get home.”
Mr Atkinson arrived back in the UK on May 2 without any money.
“At Manchester Airport they sent me to the police station and the police put me on a bus to a hostel,” he said.
“The hostel bought me a £29 ticket for the train to Huddersfield the next day.
“I’ve no family in Huddersfield. I know some people here but they weren’t able to put me up.
“I can’t see much of a future.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions explained that British people who have lived abroad are not automatically entitled to benefits in this country.
She said: “The Habitual Residence Test ensures that income-related benefits are paid to people with reasonably close ties to the UK and who have an intention to settle here.
“Anyone can appeal a decision and we will look at any new evidence they supply.”
A Kirklees spokeswoman said the council was trying to help Mr Atkinson.
“His case is complex as we have assessed he fails the Habitual Residence Test which means he will not be able to claim any benefits, including housing benefit or apply for social housing,” she said.
“This is national legislation not a local policy.
“Unfortunately Mr Atkinson has also been assessed as not being eligible for help under the National Assistance Act.
“The Housing Options and Support service has spent a lot of time unsuccessfully trying to find a hostel that will take him as he will not be able to pay the charges.”
The spokeswoman confirmed that Clare House hostel on Clare Hill was only for people who had been referred from the UK Border Agency.
Anyone who would like to help Mr Atkinson can call the Examiner on 01484 437775.