William Eichler 06 December 2017

Nearly 130,000 children will wake up homeless on Christmas, charity warns

Nearly 130,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas, homelessness charity warns.

Shelter says 2017 has seen the highest numbers of homeless children in a decade, and it estimates 128,000 will be living in temporary accommodation on Christmas day.

At least 140 families become homeless every day, it said, and 61% of families helped by Shelter’s frontline services were homeless or on the brink of losing their home.

A new report by the charity, based on in-depth interviews with children and their families living in emergency B&Bs and hostels, reveals the extent of the homelessness crisis.

Every family the charity spoke to was living in a single room and a quarter had no access to a kitchen. Half were forced to share toilet and bathroom facilities with other households and more than a third of parents had to share a bed with their children.

In England, where the highest number of families are placed into B&Bs, 45% stay beyond the six-week legal limit. The charity found this had a negative impact on the children’s mental and physical well-being.

‘It’s a national scandal that the number of homeless children in Britain has risen every year for the last decade,’ Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter.

‘No child should have to spend Christmas without a home - let alone 128,000 children.

‘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.

‘Imagine living in a noisy strange place full of people you don’t know, and waking up exhausted from having no choice but to share a bed with your siblings or parents.’

Responding to the report, Cllr Judith Blake, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Housing spokesperson, said: ‘On average, councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children in temporary accommodation every month.

‘It’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families.

‘While the Government’s indication that it will explore ways to enable councils to build more homes is encouraging, these new homes can’t appear overnight, and the demand is urgent.

‘Councils are determined to tackle homelessness, but we now need Government to support this local effort.’

Cllr Blake said the Government could support councils by adapting welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families. She also added Whitehall should allow councils to borrow to build new homes as part of the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement.

Wera Hothouse, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government, commented: ‘This child homelessness crisis is a stain on the Government’s record.

‘Ministers urgently need to invest in the genuinely affordable homes our country desperately needs. We need tougher measures to tackle soaring rental costs and protect families from being evicted at short notice.’

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