80,000 children face Christmas homeless this year, Shelter warns

Charity launches emergency appeal after investigation finds children living in ‘shameful’ conditions.

Shelter is today launching an emergency appeal after an investigation by the charity uncovered the shocking conditions that many homeless children will be living in this Christmas.

80,000 children in Britain will wake up this Christmas morning homeless and in temporary accommodation, according to government figures. For families whose emergency housing is a bed and breakfast – the numbers of which now stand at a ten year high – this Christmas will be particularly bleak.

The charity conducted an investigation with 25 families in England currently or recently living in B&Bs, uncovering the desperate conditions that homeless children face today. Almost half of the families reported very disturbing incidents witnessed by children, including open drug use and threats of violence, with one direct threat of violence to a child. The majority of the families said they felt unsafe in their emergency accommodation.

The conditions uncovered by the Shelter investigation are a world away from the B&Bs used by holidaymakers. The majority of the families were living together in one room, while in over half of the cases investigated, children were sharing beds with their parents or siblings. Two thirds of the families said that their children had no table to eat meals on, and often had to eat on the floor or on the bed.

With homelessness rising, the charity is bracing itself for a surge in demand for its advice services and launching an emergency appeal for donations to fund its work helping homeless children. Every December the charity receives calls from thousands of families, with advisers on duty every single day in the Christmas period - including on Christmas Day - to help families at risk of losing their homes or living in B&Bs.

Shelter’s investigation highlighted the devastating impact of B&Bs on homeless children and found that: 
• 12 of the families had to share kitchen facilities and 3 families had no cooking facilities at all in their building. One family reported sharing a cooker and a fridge with 22 other people.
• 22 of the families said that it was very difficult to find a safe place for their children to play.
• Of the families with school age children, all of the children found it very difficult to do their homework.
• More than half of the families had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 sharing with seven or more other people.
• One family living in a B&B with their daughter reported a man threatening to “smash her face in” after an argument about a shared bathroom.

Joann, a GP receptionist from Hillingdon, and her seven year old son were made homeless after they were evicted by their landlord and unable to find anywhere else to live. They are now living in a B&B in Hounslow and facing the prospect of being homeless this Christmas. 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.”

Joann’s son, said: “Sometimes it’s scary. There’s no room to play here and I miss having my friends over.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Our shocking findings have uncovered the shameful conditions homeless children will be living in this Christmas. Parents and children sharing beds, children forced to eat on the floor and being threatened with violence in the place they live: this shouldn’t 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.”

Erika and her 4 year old daughter, Evelina, from Chichester were homeless last Christmas and were housed in a B&B in Worthing. They had one room where they shared a bed and no access to kitchen facilities. They had a shower but had to share a toilet with 30 other people. Erika says: “We had one room and nowhere else to go – it was horrible. The most difficult thing was that the house was so noisy with people always coming and going all hours of the day. It was really difficult for Evelina to get to sleep and she was always exhausted. She was too scared to go to the toilet on her own.”

“Organising Christmas for Evelina and to make her feel safe was an enormous stress. I was constantly worried and lived in fear and uncertainty for the whole time we were there.”

To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal visit shelter.org.uk or text HOME to 87080 and donate £3 to answer a call for help.

Notes to Editors
• Nowhere to go: the scandal of homeless children in bed and breakfasts, including more details from the charity’s investigation, is available from the Shelter press office.
• Children in temporary accommodation figures for Britain: 
The England figure is published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The Scotland figure is published by the Scottish Government.
The Wales figure is estimated by applying an average number of children in a homeless household (derived from information published by the Welsh Government) to the number of households with children in TA in Wales (also published by the Welsh Government).
• The number of families with children housed in B&Bs as an emergency measure has increased and is now at a ten year high, with 2,090 homeless families in England now living in cramped and unsuitable conditions. Source: DCLG Live homelessness tables
• In October 2013, Shelter’s investigations team interviewed 25 people who were (or up until very recently were) living with their families in temporary accommodation in England arranged by their local authority under homelessness legislation.
• The 25 interviewees were selected from cases encountered by our housing advisors. This work is not intended to be representative of all families living in Temporary Accommodation or Bed and Breakfast.


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