TERMINAL cancer patient, Barry Cleverley, of Strete wants to move closer to Torbay Hospital where he has been offered life-extending chemotherapy treatment, but claims he has been told homeless people are ahead of him in the queue. Barry, 64, of Hyne Town Estate, was informed by doctors in July 2022 that without the treatment he only has 12 months to live. With it he could enjoy another three years of life.

But as neither Barry or his partner Valerie Butts drive, he must either rely on hospital transport or catch several buses to reach the hospital – a 40-mile round trip.

Neither options are a comfort to Barry, who suffers from constant nausea which worsens when he is travelling in cars or on public transport. He also has hypertension, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Because he does not feel well enough to travel such a long distance, Barry has not yet received any chemotherapy treatment for his cancer and fears time is running out for him.

The couple have asked both their housing provider, LiveWest, and Devon Home Choice for an urgent transfer to a more suitable property nearer to the hospital but say they were told housing the homeless is a priority.

LiveWest said housing allocation is determined by the local authority which manages the bidding process, and that the pair had been offered two homes since September 2022, both of which they declined.

Cllr Judy Pearce, South Hams executive member for housing, said the authority has been using ‘homelessness preference’ for some 10 per cent of its advertised properties in a bid to relieve the pressure the local housing crisis has put on the availability of emergency homeless accommodation.

Barry who has bladder cancer, said he travelled to Torbay Hospital once in the hospital car but on arrival was told his blood pressure was too high to have the treatment.

He said: “I’m being told that I’m going to lose my life in five months time if I don’t get this treatment, but I’m not well enough to travel so far. I’ve already waited seven-and-a-half months for the chemo. Cancer is not supposed to be left days, let alone months.

“We were told by LiveWest that we meet all the criteria for a transfer, but that homeless people have to come first. Devon Home Choice say exactly the same thing. They don’t understand it’s my life they are talking about. They are basically telling me I am going to die in July.”

Barry said they recently bid on a home in Totnes, but it was given to a homeless person instead.

“Surely it’s common sense to give me the place in Totnes and put a homeless person in our bungalow in Strete. They could have helped both of us and probably saved my life for another year or two. But they aren’t bothered, it’s like they don’t give a damn.”

Barry added: “They give us a shortlist each time of about seven or eight bungalows but they are in out of the way places like Harbertonford or Dartmoor.

Dr Andrew Eynon-Lewis of Dartmouth Medical Practice wrote a letter supporting Barry’s request to be rehoused, hailing it an “exceptional case.”

He added: “I spoke with his consultant yesterday and we both recognise that his current isolated place of residence coupled with his reliance on public transport is preventing him engaging with medical services, and thereby preventing him being offered the chemotherapy with will improve the quality of his life but not cure his disease. This means currently he is not receiving any treatment.”

Lib Dem district councillor for Stokenham, Julian Brazil said: “It shouldn’t be an either or, we want to be able to help all those who need our support. It’s another example of how the desperate shortage of social housing is affecting local residents. South Hams has got to do better.”

Cllr Pearce said: “We intentionally limit the number of properties that we apply the homelessness preference to so that we do not disadvantage other applicants who requiring housing for alternate reasons. 

“Our officers have reviewed the status of the property referred to by Mr Cleverley. In this instance, the property has not been allocated to a homeless person. The bungalow in question was unfortunately withdrawn by the housing association, as it is no longer available to let. 

“We are confident that Mr Cleverley will be successful in a housing bid shortly, as he and his partner are clearly committed to bidding and proactively following up on the properties that they have applied for.”

James Reseigh, director of neighbourhoods for LiveWest, said: “We will have a further discussion with the household in relation to the areas they are seeking to move to as we note that they are bidding on homes in a number of locations across Torbay and South Hams so we need to clarify their exact needs.”