The figures also reveal that the number of families living in emergency B&B and hostel rooms across the country has risen by 18% in just a year, as local councils battle to find homeless families anywhere else that is stable or affordable to go.
Fifty years since the housing and homelessness charity was first founded, the country is once again in the grip of a housing crisis. With a new family in Britain becoming homeless every 10 minutes, Shelter is calling on the public to help support its frontline advisers as they grapple with the increasing demand for help from families fighting to stay in their homes.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “News of the devastating rise in homeless children in the South East will bring heartache to thousands of people in the region. But the sad fact is, fifty years since Shelter was founded, too many families still need our help.
“Almost daily we hear from parents desperate to escape the single cramped room of a B&B or hostel that they find themselves struggling to raise their children in. Imagine having to eat all of your meals on the floor, share a bed with the rest of your family, or being too frightened to leave your room at night – these are things no parent wants their child to endure.
“That’s why we urgently need public support to help us be there for the thousands of families who’ll need us this Christmas. Join us and together we will not rest until every homeless child has a place to call home.”
To shed light on the harsh realities of modern day hidden homelessness, the charity carried out in-depth interviews with 25 families currently or recently living in emergency B&B’s, hostels or sofa-surfing.
The invetsigation found that more than three quarters of families said they felt their accommodation was unsafe, with the worst accounts involving exposure to drug abuse, fighting, and strangers sleeping in the corridors.
Every family lived in a single room without any space for the children to play, and over half of parents also had to share a bed with their children.
The investigation also found that three-fifths of families had to share toilet and bathroom facilities, often in a poor and unsanitary condition, with other residents.
More than two-thirds of families said their room was in a state of disrepair, including reports of mould, broken beds and stained mattresses, as well as more serious hazards like sparking electrical sockets and windows that wouldn’t close.
The investigation also revealed the emotional and mental turmoil of living in these circumstances. 18 of the 25 families interviewed said their children’s mental and emotional health had been badly affected, with accounts of children becoming anxious, isolated from their friends and struggling to sleep. Over half of parents said their children’s development was negatively impacted.
To support Shelter’s urgent Christmas appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70555 to donate £3.
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