Nowhere to go: Over 88,000 children in London to wake up homeless this Christmas

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dramatic portrait of a little homeless boy

Shelter launches urgent appeal after in-depth investigation uncovers the shocking reality of hidden homelessness

 

Shelter is today launching an urgent appeal after a new investigation conducted by the charity uncovered the harrowing impact of homelessness on families and children in Britain.

Over 88,000 children in London face spending this Christmas homeless and in temporary accommodation, the highest level recorded since 2007, new analysis of government figures shows.

Alarmingly, the figures also reveal that the number of families living in emergency B&B and hostel rooms in the capital has risen by a worrying 18% in just a year, as local councils battle to find homeless families anywhere else that is stable or affordable to go.

Fifty years since the housing and homelessness charity was first founded, the country is once again in the grip of a housing crisis. With a new family in Britain becoming homeless every 10 minutes, Shelter is calling on the public to help support its frontline advisers as they grapple with the increasing demand for help from families fighting to stay in their homes.

To shed light on the harsh realities of modern day hidden homelessness, the charity carried out in-depth interviews with 25 families currently or recently living in emergency B&B’s, hostels or sofa-surfing. Some of the investigation’s most shocking findings included:

  • More than three quarters of families said they felt their accommodation was unsafe, with the worst accounts involving exposure to drug abuse, fighting, and strangers sleeping in the corridors.
  • Every family lived in a single room without any space for the children to play, and over half of parents also had to share a bed with their children.
  • Three-fifths of families had to share toilet and bathroom facilities, often in a poor and unsanitary condition, with other residents.
  • More than two-thirds of families said their room was in a state of disrepair, including reports of mould, broken beds and stained mattresses, as well as more serious hazards like sparking electrical sockets and windows that wouldn’t close.

The investigation also revealed the emotional and mental turmoil of living in these circumstances. 18 of the 25 families interviewed said their children’s mental and emotional health had been badly affected, with accounts of children becoming anxious, isolated from their friends and struggling to sleep. Over half of parents said their children’s development was negatively impacted.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “News of the devastating rise in homeless children in London will bring heartache to millions of people across the capital. But the sad fact is, fifty years since Shelter was founded, too many families still need our help.

“Almost daily we hear from parents desperate to escape the single cramped room of a B&B or hostel that they find themselves struggling to raise their children in. Imagine having to eat all of your meals on the floor, share a bed with the rest of your family, or being too frightened to leave your room at night – these are things no parent wants their child to endure.

“That’s why we urgently need the public’s support to help us be there for the thousands of families who’ll need us this Christmas. Join us and together we will not rest until every homeless child has a place to call home.”

Case study: Glenn Hodges and his ten year old son, Cam, became homeless following a relationship breakdown. Unable to find anywhere he could afford to privately rent on his wages, the family have been living in an emergency hostel for more than six months.

“It’s not a secure place at all. You’ve got people coming in and out all the time. The day we moved in here, the person in the room below got raided by the police. We don’t feel safe. My son is 10 years old and he shouldn’t be dealing with that. I’m trying to protect him from it.

“But the worst thing is the uncertainty. Being a single father, I’m not worried about me now, it’s the pressure of making sure Cam is alright. He’s getting depressed, and he’s losing touch with his friends because he can’t play with them after school like he used to.

 

“It feels like you’ve lost control over your life, but when I called Shelter’s helpline it was like a little bit of hope had been restored. The adviser I spoke to was really patient and kind, and it’s such a relief to have someone fighting my corner so that maybe next Christmas Cam and I will have a place to call home again.”

 

To support Shelter’s urgent Christmas appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70555 to donate £3.

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