Double number of families facing a homeless Christmas
The number of people facing homelessness at Christmas in the West Country has nearly doubled in three years, as stagnating wages struggle to compete with rapidly rising rents.
Since 2009, calls to a helpline run by housing charity Shelter from homeless people or those on the verge of losing their home have risen by 86 per cent, with calls from at-risk families with children up by 77 per cent.
The findings come after the organisation's Christmas appeal warned that 2,000 children in the South West will wake up homeless this Christmas, living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts or hostels.
In country as a whole, 75,000 children are expected to spend Christmas without a permanent home. Calls to Shelter from at-risk across the UK have risen by a massive 92 per cent. The charity says it is increasingly concerned that rising rents, increasing living costs and flatlining wages mean more families will struggle to keep up with payments and could be at risk of losing their home in the months ahead.
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However, it conceded in its Housing Report, published last month, that "the proactive approach of the previous administration to support home owners has helped", though urged caution over predicted rises in interest rates.
Campbell Robb, the charity's chief executive, said homelessness remained a major issue, even in 2012.
"These figures are a shocking reminder of the daily battle so many families in the South West are facing just to keep a roof over their head," he said.
The last statistics published – in February – on the number of rough sleepers put the South West as having the third highest number, with 337, after London (446) and the South East (430).
The figures, which were based on counts and estimates from every local authority in England, to generate a single-night snapshot, suggested rough sleeping had increased by 23 per cent from 1,768 to 2,181 between 2010 and 2011.
Such figures were brought into stark relief last week, when 21-year-old Michelle Conroy died in Exeter when the tent in which she slept was crushed beneath a falling tree. The coffin of another homeless man, Michael Gething, who died during the recent terrible weather will later this month be carried through the streets of Totnes, Devon, to highlight the plight of rough sleepers. The 41-year-old is thought to have died from hypothermia and campaigners said that as many as five homeless people have perished outdoors since last Christmas.