The people of Swindon have rallied to help a disabled pensioner living in squalor.

From the outside, the property is unassuming and looks like any other bungalow.

But inside, the walls and ceilings are covered in black mould and damp, the floorboards are sodden and fragile, the furniture and belongings are ruined, the foundations are flooded, the central heating has been broken for two years, rats scurry around freely, and the electricity only works in two rooms.

Swindon Advertiser: Mould and damp infest a Swindon bungalowMould and damp infest a Swindon bungalow (Image: Newsquest)

For years, Janet Reynolds regularly met up with the elderly lady who lives at the house, taking her shopping and having a cuppa together.

After the pandemic arrived, Janet was no longer allowed inside, and so the full extent of the developing problems with the 75-year-old’s housing situation only became clear last month, when the homeowner asked for some help cleaning the place up.

Janet said: “It’s heartbreaking. You wouldn't let an animal live like this, let alone a vulnerable human being.

“She’s worked all her life and never claimed benefits or asked for anything but has been left to live in this terrible state.

“No-one from the council or social services would even come out to have a look."

The resident – who is referred to as 'Mary' as she wishes to remain anonymous – now has just the clothes on her back and is living with Janet until her home can be restored to a habitable condition.

There is no timeline for when she might be able to move back to her home.

She is blind in one eye, has heart problems, was recently hospitalised with pneumonia, and relies on using the kettle and microwave to heat water and meals which were stored in the off oven to prevent rats from reaching them.

Swindon Advertiser: Sandra Kennelly and Janet Reynolds with a skip full of rubbish from the houseSandra Kennelly and Janet Reynolds with a skip full of rubbish from the house (Image: Newsquest)

After Janet and friend Sandra Kennelly raised awareness of Mary’s plight on social media last Thursday, generous businesses and citizens from around Swindon offered to help in any way they can.

More than £3,700 has been raised in just a few days to pay to gut and repair the property, and several companies have donated their time and services for free.

It’s the most extreme example of disrepair that Emerald Damp Proofing business owner Brendan O'Neill has seen in his years of experience. He had to wear an air filtration mask to safely breathe while inside the property, and described the property as "life threatening".

The Adver has been told that, after a pipe burst in the attic and the boiler caused two floods in the kitchen - which may also have a gas leak - Mary started sleeping in the living room at the front of her house.

While Brendan and his team spent their days off at the weekend removing furniture and ripping up the carpet, they found another large leak in that very room - and the floorboards were so weak in places that they broke under the pressure of a single step.

Swindon Advertiser: The living room before it was cleared outThe living room before it was cleared out (Image: Newsquest)

Swindon Advertiser: Another leak found on the other side of the living roomAnother leak found on the other side of the living room (Image: Newsquest)

Brendan said: “Google ‘damp’ and every problem that comes up is in this house. There is nothing to salvage, and the floors are on the brink of collapse.

“The second I walked in to assess it, I could tell everything was wrong.”

G Waste, Wayne’s Drains, Dean Salter from SAP Builders, Correventa, Beefy’s Skips, Swindon Jetwashing, and Dulux are among the businesses that have offered their help.

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Sandra added: “We have had an amazing response, with so many people offering us bedding and clothing and other support, which is so kind, I can’t thank them enough. The power of social media!

“Mary’s a lovely lady and is very houseproud but was too embarrassed to ask for help. I think she worried they would sell her family home and put her in care.

“This is just the beginning – we are going to need more help to fix this.”