Violence, fear and sleepless nights - the reality for Britain’s homeless children this Christmas
This week, the homeless charity Shelter published a shocking new report on the conditions in which Britain's homeless children are living.
Here, their CEO Campbell Robb explains why the help Shelter offers is needed more than ever - and what you might be able to do to ensure they can help more families.
Have you experienced homelessness? Are you shocked by the figures? Please do tell us what you think on the thread below.
Chief Executive, Shelter
Posted on: Tue 05-Nov-13 16:57:10
(7 comments )
As a father, the thought of just one child waking up homeless on Christmas morning is shocking enough, but to know that this will be the reality for 80,000 children in Britain this year is truly appalling.
For most people, the festive season means being at home with their loved ones, and it is heart-breaking that in 21st century Britain tens of thousands of children won’t have a real home of their own this Christmas. Many will be living in a single room of a bed and breakfast or hostel with their family, with no room to even eat their dinner - let alone have a Christmas tree.
Worryingly, the number of homeless families placed in emergency bed and breakfasts is at a ten-year high, with recent government statistics showing that over 2000 families were placed in this sort of accommodation between April and June this year; 8% more than the same period last year.
These places are a world away from the cosy guest house you imagine when you think of bed and breakfasts, and certainly not suitable for families to live in. Legally, homeless families can only be placed in a B&B for 6 weeks, and even then as an absolute last resort, but the pressures on councils are now so great that this can be the reality for a family for much longer.
We uncovered shocking stories from several homeless families who were placed in bed and breakfasts through a recent investigation. Almost half of the 25 families we spoke to reported very disturbing incidents witnessed by children, including open drug use and threats of violence. Most of the families were living in just one room and many had to eat their dinner on the floor as they had no table. Of the families with school age children, all of the children found it very difficult to do their homework.
One little boy found it almost impossible to sleep as he was so scared of a man on their corridor... Another father reported that a man had directly threatened his daughter, saying that he would ‘smash her face in' after an argument about a shared bathroom.
One little boy found it almost impossible to sleep as he was so scared of a man on their corridor, and his mum said he was getting visibly pale from all the stress and lack of sleep. Another father reported that a man had directly threatened his daughter, saying that he would ‘smash her face in’ after an argument about a shared bathroom.
These are no places for children to live. We need to change things.
I would love it if there was no need for organisations like Shelter to exist. But in reality, we have to be here to help families facing homelessness who - without our advice and support services - would have no-where to turn.
One child homeless is a tragedy. But 80,000 is an absolute disgrace. I know I’m not the only parent to believe that. That’s why – with your help - we’ll be pulling out all the stops at Shelter to help every single family who needs us this Christmas.
We’re here to make sure that no-one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own, and we campaign to prevent it in the first place. The Shelter helpline is open 365 days a year - including on Christmas Day – and we also run face-to-face services throughout the country. Tragically though, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, demand for our help is soaring.
We simply can’t help everyone who needs it. That’s why we’ve launched our Emergency Fundraising Appeal today to try to make sure we can answer every call for help this Christmas. We believe that everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home, not just a place to sleep, and every single donation, big or small, means that we can continue to be there for children who need our help.
If you can’t give money, then there are still plenty of ways to help, including signing our petition to David Cameron, asking him to make sure that every child has the safe, permanent home they deserve. You can also get involved in our Great Gingerbread House Sale by baking a gingerbread house with your kids, to sell in aid of Shelter.
To find out more about the appeal visit the Shelter website, or simply text HOME to 87080 and help us answer a call for help today.
By Campbell Robb
Have signed the petition.
The gingerbread house competition looks great. Some of those houses are amazing.
I would have to use the flat pack gingerbread house supplied by ikea this time of year to get one to look anywhere like those
I have signed the petition. The sad thing is, that 80,000 figure will probably have doubled by this time next year
I have signed the petition.
But what a shame I had to. 80,000 is a truly shocking number and I agree with megab, this is probably set to double in the year ahead. It angers me that statistics such as these persistently fly under the media radar.
Love the gingerbread house idea.
Very sad, this was very nearly us last Christmas, my parents took us in in the end which was not ideal but better than this, it could so easily be us again.
If they ARE going to put families in bed and breakfast can they not at least use different ones for families than single/childless couples so you at least limit the chance of issues slightly.
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My 7 year old daughter was so sad about this when we discussed it, that she is giving a lot of her toys and books away to the local refuge and holding a cake sale at her school for shelter. I know it's the tip of the iceberg, but she genuinely was horrified and baffled by this
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