News : Shelter Helpline on the Frontline of Deepening Housing Crisis
Dec 18, 2014 -- In a small room in Sheffield, above what claims to be the town’s "premier wargaming centre" and a closed branch of Anglian Home Improvements, 50 people are doing their best to soften the impact of Britain’s housing crisis.
It is here that Shelter’s helpline staff try to help those left behind by a runaway property market. In the 12 months to the end of September the housing charity took almost 175,000 calls; this month they expect to deal with a further 14,000 struggling tenants and homeowners.
The number at serious risk of losing their homes has surged in recent years and is up by 28% since 2012. The charity receives almost 1,000 calls a week from people on the brink of homelessness. But inadequate housing in serious need of improvement and problems with landlords or letting agents also feature.
The reasons for homelessness are varied. Adviser Nadeem Khan says most of us are "just a couple of pay cheques away from being homeless", and certainly there are lots of people out there with few reserves, some of whom have reached the point where they need help to keep a roof over their heads.
On a Wednesday in December a wide range of individual crises have prompted calls to the helpline, which is funded by donations – direct from the public and through partnerships such as with Marks & Spencer, which is giving the charity a slice of the sales of its Christmas lunch range.
Across the country local councils receive thousands of applications from residents who have become homeless. Last week, government figures showed there were 27,970 applications in England for help in the three months to September, and 13,900 were accepted over the same period.
For the past two-and-a-half years the primary reason for someone losing a home has been the end of a private tenancy agreement, but parents, other relatives and friends being no longer able to provide accommodation prompted more than a quarter of successful applications.
The difficulties councils face in providing homes for those they are willing to help is underlined by the fact that at the end of the quarter 60,940 households were in temporary accommodation. The number in bed and breakfasts, hostels or refuges was up by 4% year-on-year, at 9,720.
By 5pm the helpline has received 389 calls and managed to answer 363 of them. It will be open even on Christmas Day to help those who suddenly find themselves in trouble. "It’s upsetting," says Khan. "You’ve got people who are homeless at Christmas, you’ve got children who are in a B&B on Christmas day."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Anglian Home Improvements:
Anglian Windows or Anglian Home Improvements is a British home improvement company. It was established in 1966 by George Williams when he opened a factory in Norwich.
Published: Monday, December 22, 2014