Rustington man ‘forced to sleep in car for several days’ after ‘arson’ destroys home

Tom Rowland and JB outside the Travelodge in Worthing. Picture: Kate Shemilt
Tom Rowland and JB outside the Travelodge in Worthing. Picture: Kate Shemilt

A man who was made homeless by a fire said he has been forced to live in his car and hotel rooms after being failed by the local authorities.

But Arun District Council said it was ‘working hard’ to find him suitable accomodation.

Tom Rowland, 46, lost all his belongings in a suspected arson attack which destroyed his council-owned bungalow in Lawrence Avenue, Rustington on October 5.

He claimed Arun District Council could not find him somewhere to stay with his Border Collie puppy JB, so he was forced to sleep in his car for several nights. He said: “It was so uncomfortable; I didn’t get any sleep. But the dog is a puppy, he has to be looked after.”

Read more:

Six rescued after boat sinks in Littlehampton Harbour

Headless murder mystery – why the ‘Bolney Torso’ killing in Sussex is still unsolved 27 years later

Prize-winning author’s gratitude to Sussex charity and food bank

His insurers stepped in, and got them a hotel room at the Fontwell Park Travelodge in Fontwell Avenue, Arundel, which did not have breakfast facilities so he said he had to live out of vending machines. They are now staying at the Travelodge in Marine Parade, Worthing, which does serve hot meals.

Mr Rowland also criticised Sussex Police’s handling of the case. He said: “I’m desparately unhappy. I feel like I’m a prisoner – I can’t live in one room.

“The police should have at least kept me updated with what is going on.

“It’s a disgrace that anybody should be treated like this.”

Sussex Police said they had spoken with Mr Rowland ‘on numerous occasions’ about the investigation.

Mr Rowland has an acquired brain injury from a car collision in 2008 for which he has a social worker.

But in a letter written to police, Arun and West Sussex County Council’s social care department, his mother Helen Rowland said his social worker had done nothing to help him.

She said his ‘mental health and wellbeing is suffering’, he was removed from his circle of friends and his security, identity and wellbeing had been ‘totally destroyed’. She said: “This would be a difficult and life-changing experience for any individual, but as stated Thomas is a vulnerable adult who requires specialist support.”

She called for a meeting of all concerned parties to sort out her son’s future.

A county council spokesman said it was ‘working closely with Mr Rowland and his family’ but could not comment further.

An Arun spokesman said: “Senior officers from Arun District Council have met with Mr Rowland on several occasions since the time of the fire at his property. The council is addressing the concerns Mr Rowland has raised at these meetings and is working hard to identify suitable alternative permanent accommodation within the Arun District which meets Mr Rowland’s specific requests and needs.

“The council can also confirm that temporary accommodation was sought and offered to Mr Rowland immediately following the fire.”