On Christmas Day I won’t be sitting down to a turkey dinner surrounded by my friends and family. Instead I will be sat by the phone, doing all I can to help families who are on the brink of losing everything.
Their biggest concern is not what to buy grandma or whether Tiny Tim will eat his Christmas pudding. It is whether their children will have a roof over their head when they wake up on Christmas morning.
Families shouldn’t have to think like that at Christmas, but thousands of families across the country do.
There are 93,000 children in the UK who will be homeless
this Christmas. That is why our phones were ringing off the hook on Christmas Day last year – and we know it will happen this year too.
Just the other day I spoke to a frantic mother in the Manchester area who had been served an eviction notice by bailiffs. She was due to be turned out onto the streets along with her young children a few days before Christmas.
She was desperate, she had nowhere to go and no-one else she could turn to.
Thankfully we were able to help her apply to the court for a bit more time in that property. As a result her children will be able to wake up in a warm bed in their own home on Christmas morning and we have been able to arrange extra support to help her find a new home after Christmas.
Not everyone is so lucky. We don’t hear from some families until they are already homeless.
Shelter hotline calls
There will be children who wake up in a Bed and Breakfast this Christmas Day and will be lucky to get sandwiches for their dinner.
I recently spoke to a family with three children in the North East who had lost their home after the father lost his job. All five of them were crammed into a single room in a B&B.
Naturally the parents were scared for their children’s safety. They didn’t know who else was staying there. For all they knew there could be drug users or someone violent in the next room.
When you speak to these people you can hear the desperation in their voices. They are at their wits end, they don’t know what to do.
It is absolutely heartbreaking and that is not something you can simply leave at the office at the end of the day, it stays with you when you go home.
The number of people turning to us for help is going up all the time. Our hotline is now stretched to the limit. In the last year we have received 51,000 calls from people on the brink of losing their homes.
That is roughly 1,000 calls every week, up 28% on the previous year.
And the truth is that is just the tip of the iceberg. Another 1,300 people are at risk of being made homeless every day. These are not ‘scroungers’ who have spent their whole lives on benefits.