AN ALARMING rise in the number of people in Yorkshire facing homelessness is predicted this Christmas, a charity has warned following a surge in callers to its helpline over last year’s holiday period.
More than 1,000 people from the region called for Shelter’s help last December, a 13 per cent increase from the year before, while the number of those who have done so over the last 12 months has risen by 12 per cent year-on-year to 12,753.
The shocking figures reflect the growing number of people struggling to cope with the rising costs of living coupled with stagnating wages, the charity said. And it expects more families will find it increasingly difficult to afford to stay in their homes as bills mount in the run-up to Christmas.
Liz Clare, who has worked as one of Shelter’s 50 helpline advisers for nine years, said she and her colleagues had never taken as many calls as they had already in the last 12 months and Christmas period was always the busiest time of year.
“The threat of homelessness is devastating at any time of year, but it seems to get worse around Christmas as the strains of the holidays close in and the weather gets cold,” she said.
“One Christmas Eve I answered a call from a mum with a disabled son. They were evicted from their home that night and had to sleep on the streets in the cold. We managed to find them a place to stay, but I’ll never forget the devastation in her voice. The sad fact is that eviction notices can come at any time of year.”
The new figures come after the charity revealed 727 children in Yorkshire will wake up homeless this Christmas as it launched an emergency appeal in their aid earlier this month. Many of them will spend the festive sesaon in cramped hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation.
Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb said: “These figures should serve as a stark reminder of the families in Yorkshire who will be facing an everyday struggle to keep a roof over their heads this Christmas. While most of us will rightly be enjoying the festivities at home with our family and friends, Shelter helpline staff will be taking calls from people on the brink of homelessness. But with the number of calls for help they receive rising quickly, they need more support to keep going.”
Shelter’s helpline is partly funded by the charity’s partnership with Marks & Spencer through sales of its seasonal sandwiches.