Katrina Smith and her partner Alan Lane look like any other couple about to board flight for a winter holiday.
Alan, 71, and Katrina, 62, mingle effortlessly with the crowds at Heathrow Airport as they strive to remain anonymous, just another faceless couple among the multitudes passing through one of the world’s busiest airports.
But their appearance masks a very different,bleak and extraordinary reality.
Katrina and Alan are not holdaymakers. They are homeless and are two of a growing number of middle class, rough sleepers at Heathrow who choose the safety, warmth and relative comfort of its airport terminals over the dangers and freezing cold out on the streets
The Mail Online report their story:
Thanks to this hard work, they lived in a beautiful three-bedroom detached home, now worth nearly £500,000, in a glorious part of Dorset and quickly made good friends there. Life had never been better.
But then a string of bad luck and bad decisions over a decade led to them losing everything.
Katrina and Alan, who have been together for 28 years, are able, intelligent and articulate. Yet they have fallen through Britain’s welfare safety net. It is 18 months since they lost their home in Poole; the last vestige of their security and the base that pinioned them to the everyday world of work, supermarket shopping, breezy walks along the coast and supper parties with friends.
Now they live hand-to-mouth, eking out their days in limbo. They try to sustain cheerfulness, normality and hope. They try to be inconspicuous.
‘We spread ourselves thinly,’ says Katrina. ‘We don’t want to stick out. So we change our locations within terminals. We don’t stay in the same place on two successive nights.
‘Sometimes we sit in the upstairs lounge on hard, black plastic chairs, just because it’s the warmest place in Terminal 2. We drag our cases round with us all the time.
‘In the evening we might watch an episode of a TV drama on our smart phone using the airport’s free wifi and we chase jobs advertised on line.
‘We only go to sleep at 2am, when the airport sleeps, after the last flights have left and there are no more passengers. And we have just two hours until everything wakes again.
‘I don’t know if the airport staff suspect we’re staying here — if they did, they could move us on — but we look presentable. That’s in our favour. And there are others like us; we’re a little community. But we only acknowledge each other’s presence with a sideways glance.
The hidden homeless crisis at Heathrow is revealed by official figures showing that more than 100 rough sleepers “live” at the airport during the winter.
The numbers using its terminals as a makeshift overnight hostel have more than doubled in the past year and are now the highest on record, according to new data from the Greater London Authority, reports the Evening Standard
But at least for Katrina and Alan, some good news. Since their story was highlighted they have received several offers of support and well wishers have set up a fund to help them.