Around 90,000 children in the UK will wake up this Christmas morning homeless, official government figures show.
The figures also show that the number of homeless families living in B&B’s has more than doubled in only three years, with many forced to endure dangerous living conditions.
An in-depth investigation into 20 homeless families found that more than half felt their temporary accommodation was unsafe, with parents reporting their children were exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, swearing and racist behaviour.
The emotional impact on homeless children and their families is devastating, with more than a half of parents saying their children’s mental health had suffered as a result of the unacceptable living conditions, including depression and panic attacks.
With the number of homeless families on the rise, the charity Shelter say they are bracing themselves for a surge in calls to its helpline over the festive season. In response Shelter has launched an urgent appeal to help its services cope with the extra demand.
Felicia was evicted from her home, along with her two children, when her marriage broke down. Not nowhere to live, the family became homeless and had to live in B&B accommodation for two months.
Felicia told Shelter: “My children had already been through hell before we got to the B&B, but once we moved in their mental health declined with every passing day. My son became depressed for the first time in his life and wouldn’t get out of bed, and my daughter even started self-harming. As a mother it was heart-breaking to see, but I felt so helpless because living in the B&B was our only option.
She added: “If I hadn’t found Shelter I don’t know what we would have done, but thankfully they were able to help find us a more stable place to live.”
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, called on the public to donate to the emergency appeal:
“In the 21st century it cannot be right that homeless children are experiencing severe emotional distress, facing three hour round trips to school and having to eat their dinner on the floor.
“Our advisers will be working tirelessly to support people who find themselves homeless this Christmas, but it’s getting harder and harder for us to be there for every family that needs us.
“We urgently need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one has to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.”
You can support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal at shelter.org.uk/donate.