A homeless single mum said she was forced to sleep in her Ford Fiesta with her sons with their cat Domino – who lived on the parcel shelf.
Tracey Maragh's boys had to wash and brush their teeth in a McDonald's toilet and their pet, Domino, lived on the car's parcel shelf.
Tracey, who suffers from arthritis , sat in the driver’s seat while one of her children slept in the reclined passenger seat and the other lay across the backseat.
The 45-year-old and her teenage boys are now "living on noodles" at a Birmingham Travelodge, having been put up by Birmingham City Council.
But she said they were due to be moved 20 miles away to another branch – where they would spend Christmas – this weekend, leaving her sons struggling to get them to college – and so may potentially be back in the car.
Their nightmare began when their lost their home in Kingstanding on October 17 over rent arrears running to thousands of pounds.
Tracey said she did her best to resolve the situation but was thwarted as she was not the tenancy holder.
She said she approached the council on the day they lost their home but had to live in the Fiesta, parked up outside various parks, because she could not find emergency accommodation.
They finally moved into the Travelodge on November 2.
Birmingham City Council disputed the date on which Tracey asked for help and said she was offered accommodation on the day she made contact, which it said was October 25.
Tracey said: “It doesn’t make me feel good, it’s feels like I’ve failed my kids, I would not sleep, I wanted to make sure my kids were safe.”
She ripped up cardboard to put in the cat’s cage to use as a makeshift litter tray.
Her sons, aged 16 and 17, attend college and had to go to a nearby McDonald's to wash their faces and brush their teeth before they went to class.
“It was a horrible experience,” she said.
“They’re teenagers and at that age you don’t want that sort of embarrassment and shame.
“I’ve been trying my best to keep them as stable as I can, they’ve gone through a lot.”
In a bid to escape sleeping in the car, Tracey said she and her kids went to sleep on the floor of a relative’s storage room but couldn’t do it and went back to the vehicle.
She said: “It makes me feel worthless for the kids more than for myself.
“I’ve been crying my eyes out to them, it’s been a nightmare.”
Tracey said she approached the council as soon as she was evicted but was told nothing could be done before she was offered a place at a different Travelodge on October 25.
She said she refused as parking near the hotel would have cost her £12 a day – money she did not have – and she did not want to lose the car as it took her children to college.
She also accepted having turned down an offer of permanent accommodation in Winson Green on safety and security grounds.
The council said she approached the authority on October 25 and was offered accommodation on the same day.
Even after moving into the Travelodge, Tracey said the family were struggling to get by as they were only provided with a small breakfast of bread, juice and cereal.
Tracey said: “Unless I get a little bit of money, we live on noodles a lot.
“I can go without food but it’s the kids.
“I try to make sure they have at least two big dinners a week, but if I’m really ill I can’t move.”
The family were due to be moved to another Travelodge 20 miles away on Saturday, November 30, where they were due to spend the next 27 days.
She said: “The kids say they don’t want to go. I won’t be able to take my kids to school and both of them go in at different times.
“We’re rowing a lot, we’re biting at each other and it’s not nice."
The family will be spending Christmas Day away from any immediate family.
She said: “It’s about having family around us, I’m trying to keep myself together for them. My kids keep me going, they really do.”
Tracey used to work as a housing support worker.
She said: “I’ve seen it from both sides, I’ve worked in that situation but now I’m in it, it’s horrible.
“All this has completely changed me, I’m very strong.
“I’m hoping this can make a change for everyone in this situation because I’m absolutely appalled.”
A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “We are faced with a national housing crisis. This means we simply don’t own or have access to enough permanent social housing to provide families with, who are often in desperate need.
"As a result, we unfortunately have to rely on the use of emergency accommodation which can only be reserved for four weeks at a time. In the run-up to Christmas, hotels become busier and we are left with fewer choices and less availability.
“For the last month, we have been able to find emergency accommodation in Ms Maragh’s requested area and she has been offered a more permanent property within Birmingham however, this offer was declined.
"We will continue to work with her, to find her and her family alternative accommodation within the city as soon as it is available.
“In order to effectively support individuals and families, we need them to work with us. This means bidding for council properties as proactively as possible in as many areas of the city as they can, speaking with h
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