Homeless at Christmas
8:32am 3rd November 2014
900 children in North West to face Christmas homeless, charity warns
Shelter launches urgent appeal after investigation uncovers the shocking realities faced by homeless families
A Shelter investigation has revealed the harrowing effects of homelessness on children today, as the charity launches an urgent Christmas appeal to help those without a place to call home.
902 children in the North West will wake up homeless this Christmas, government figures show.
Nationally the figures show that the number of homeless families living in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation in England has almost doubled in just three years.
After receiving regular reports of the devastating impact of life for families in B&Bs and hostels, Shelter conducted an in-depth investigation with 20 families in England currently or recently living in temporary accommodation, which uncovered the shocking realities they face.
13 families said they felt unsafe in their accommodation, with some of the worst accounts including exposure to drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, swearing and racist language. The majority of families had to live in one room, share kitchen and bathroom facilities with strangers, and eat meals in their room on the bed or floor.
The investigation also uncovered the emotional turmoil of living in these circumstances. Over half of the families said their children's mental or emotional health had been affected, including reports of depression, panic attacks and wetting the bed.
With the number of homeless families on the rise, Shelter is bracing itself for a surge in demand for its already over-stretched advice services. The charity is calling on the public to help make sure it can be there for Britain's homeless children this Christmas by donating to its urgent appeal.
Shelter's investigation highlighted the devastating impact of being homeless on every aspect of families' lives, and found that:
-16 families reported that their children's physical health had suffered since living in temporary accommodation
-all 20 families said it had a negative effect on relationships with family and friends
-12 families reported their children had found it harder to make or keep friends
-4 families said their children had over an 1 ½ hour journey each way to school, with 2 families saying their children had to miss school altogether
Felicia and her two children were evicted from their home after Felicia's marriage broke down and she discovered her husband had secretly got the family into debt. They became homeless and, with nowhere else to turn, had no choice but to live in a B&B for over two months.
Felicia said: "My children had already been through hell before we got to the B&B, but once we moved in their mental health declined with every passing day. My son became depressed for the first time in his life and wouldn't get out of bed, and my daughter even started self-harming. As a mother it was heart-breaking to see, but I felt so helpless because living in the B&B was our only option.
"Not only did we all have to share one room, it was impossible for either of them to go to school because we were placed so far away from where we used to live. If I hadn't found Shelter I don't know what we would have done, but thankfully they were able to help find us a more stable place to live."
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "No child should have to go through the trauma of losing their home, so it's heart-breaking to think that 900 in the North West will wake up homeless this Christmas.
"In the 21st century it cannot be right that homeless children are experiencing severe emotional distress, facing three hour round trips to school and having to eat their dinner on the floor.
"These days it only takes one thing to push a family into a downward spiral which can end in homelessness, and we're bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help to keep a roof over their heads. Our advisers will be working tirelessly to support people who find themselves homeless this Christmas but it's getting harder and harder for us to be there for every family that needs us.
"We urgently need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one has to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas."
To support Shelter's emergency Christmas appeal please visit shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060 to donate £3
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