Shelter in need of urgent support as it struggles to meet demand
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter has launched an appeal calling for urgent support of its advice helpline, as the number of calls taken from people struggling to pay for their homes in London soars by over 50% in the last two years.
Last year the helpline spoke to more than 2000 people in the region struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, or going into debt because of their housing costs. Overall, calls to the charity from people in London rose by 11% over the same period.
The shocking figures reflect the growing number of people in the region facing an ongoing battle to keep up with their housing costs. The charity is warning that with so many already living on a financial knife-edge, a job loss or serious illness can be all it takes to tip someone into a spiral that ends in homelessness.
Over the last year, the helpline’s advisers heard from 124,000 people across the country desperately in need of support. But nearly 54,000 calls went unanswered as the charity struggled to keep up with growing demand.
Despite increasing the number of helpline advisors, the charity is finding that overwhelming need for their services continues to outstrip resource, making it impossible to answer every call.
Shelter helpline adviser Nadeem Khan said:
“It’s heart breaking to hear from families everyday who are desperate to keep a roof over their heads, but it’s even worse to know that at any given time there could be others waiting desperately on the line who we just can’t get to.
“For many people – from a family who have been evicted and have nowhere else to go, to a parent who has lost their job and is struggling to keep their head above water – we are the only place they can turn for help. Cut after cut to the housing safety net has left many families facing a downward spiral towards homelessness. We need more support than ever so that we can be there to answer every call for help.”
The charity has heard shocking stories from across the country of families on the brink of losing their homes.
Samantha came to Shelter for help last year after her husband lost his business. The loss of income meant that they and their three young children also lost their savings and eventually their home. Samantha said:
“It was such a scary time for us and our children. We had to bounce around from place to place, never knowing where we would end up, and having no stability whatsoever. I tried to keep positive for the children, but both my husband and I were really starting to despair. I decided one day to call the Shelter helpline and thank goodness I did. They were incredibly helpful and were able to find somewhere temporary to live that was safe and comfortable.
“Seeing the children happy and secure again has meant the world to us. I don’t know where we’d be had we not got in touch with Shelter, but thanks to their help, we now have a real chance to rebuild our lives and get back on our feet.”
Sadly, without more support for the charity’s helpline, Shelter is warning that calls like Samantha’s could go unanswered.
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive said:
“Every 11 minutes, a family in Britain loses their home. With more and more people having to stretch their finances to breaking point in a bid to makes ends meet, it’s not hard to see why. But as more people come to us desperate for support, sadly our helpline is also being stretched to its limits. Our advisers can be the difference between a family keeping their home or losing it, which is why we urgently need more support to make sure that no call for help goes unanswered.”
The charity is urging supporters to donate to their helpline by visiting shelter.org.uk.
July 4, 2014