THE FACT that 128,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas Day is a ‘national scandal’, the leader of Shelter declared yesterday.
A new Shelter report revealed that one in every 111 children is currently homeless and the worsening housing crisis means that 2017 has seen the highest numbers of homeless children in a decade.
At least 140 families become homeless every day, and in the last year alone, 61% of families helped by Shelter’s frontline services were homeless or on the brink of losing their home. Many homeless families are put into temporary accommodation by local authorities, often sharing a single room, with parents sleeping in the same bed as their children.
It can cause families ‘psychological turmoil’, Shelter’s report said, with children experiencing anxiety, shame and fear. Several parents also said their child’s mental and physical health had declined since they became homeless – citing bed bug infestations, broken heating and stress.
Ellie, 15, told Shelter about the problems of living in a cramped room with her whole family.
She said: ‘It’s hard to concentrate at school because there’s the worry about coming home. It’s just stressful.
‘There’s nowhere we can relax or get any privacy. Before it was much better. We had our own home right near school and right near our friends. We all had our own rooms and a cooker and a fridge. We could eat proper meals. I just want it to be like it was before.’
Almost half of families in England placed into B&Bs stay beyond the legal six-week limit, the charity added. Louis Williams, who lives with his family in temporary accommodation, shared with Shelter his letter to Santa.
It read: ‘Dear Santa, Please can I have a forever home. I don’t want any new toys, I just want all of my old toys that are in storage and I would like my own lego bedroom with a desk to build my models. Everyone is sad living here and I just want us to be happy again.’
Shelter Chief Executive Polly Neate said: ‘It’s a national scandal that the number of homeless children in Britain has risen every year for the last decade. Many of us will spend Christmas Day enjoying all of the festive traditions we cherish, but sadly it’ll be a different story for the children hidden away in cramped B&Bs or hostel rooms.
‘No child should have to spend Christmas without a home – let alone 128,000 children. Most of us are unaware of how homeless children live. Families rarely experience the most visible symptom of homelessness – having to sleep rough. They are often embarrassed to even let relatives or friends see where they are having to live.’
Cllr Judith Blake, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesperson, said: ‘It’s heart-breaking to think of any child experiencing homelessness, especially at Christmas … On average, councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children in temporary accommodation every month.’