A Shelter investigation today reveals ‘shocking’ conditions experienced by homeless families, as government figures show that 80,000 children in Britain will be homeless this Christmas.
For many this means emergency housing in B&Bs, where children face particularly difficult conditions.
Almost half of the families interviewed reported children witnessing disturbing incidents, including open drug use and threats of violence. One child was directly threatened by a man in her B&B after an argument over a shared bathroom. The majority of families interviewed said they felt unsafe in their emergency accommodation.
Joann and her seven-year-old son recently lost their home, and are living in a B&B in Hounslow. They’re facing the prospect of Christmas without a home of their own.
Joann says: ‘It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live. We’re desperately hoping we won’t be here for Christmas.’
With homelessness rising, and more and more stories like Joann’s appearing, Shelter’s advice services are bracing themselves for a surge in demand.
Every December, Shelter’s helpline receives thousands of calls, with advisers on duty every single day throughout the Christmas period to help families at risk of losing their homes. The charity is launching an emergency appeal for donations to help its already-stretched services meet the heightened demand.
Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, called the findings ‘shocking’, and said that such things should not be happening in twenty-first century Britain:
‘No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.
‘Our advisers will be working with families facing homelessness every day this Christmas to help them find a safe place to live and get back on their feet – but we urgently need more support this year to be there for these children.’
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