Desperate North East families face up to Christmas without a home

An increasing number of families in the North East are facing homelessness this winter, according to the latest statistics

More than 200 callers a month are calling Shelter in the North East
More than 200 callers a month are calling Shelter in the North East

Calls to charity Shelter have increased by 12% since last year, and the charity say they are bracing themselves for a further alarming rise over Christmas.

The number of people in the North East who called the Shelter helpline from 2012 to 2013 reached 2,490, the equivalent of more than 200 callers per month.

The charity say the figures reflect the growing number of people struggling to cope with the rising costs of living coupled with stagnating wages.

They expect more families will find it increasingly difficult to keep a roof over their heads, especially as bills mount in the run-up to Christmas.

Liz Clare, who has been a Shelter helpline adviser for nine years, said the Christmas period is the most difficult time of year for her and colleagues.

She said: “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.

“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.

“I’ve never seen the helpline as busy as it has been this year.”

Earlier this year, Shelter launched an emergency appeal for the 140 children in the North East who will wake up homeless this Christmas.

The charity said many of the children will be forced to spend Christmas Day cramped into one room of a hostel or bed and breakfast with their entire family.

Last night, the chief executive of charity Children North East warned the figures could also increase following Christmas as people struggle to cope with the costs of the festive period and fall into arrears.

Jeremy Cripps said: “We want to do our best for families and there would be nothing worse than being out of the house at Christmas and councils wouldn’t want that.

“After Christmas, when expenses come home to rest, people might find themselves in much more difficulty.”

He added: “At Children North East we work with 930 families. Each year some of them are in homeless family accommodation in Newcastle.

“What we have noticed is that a high proportion of families are there because of rent arrears or because their homes have been repossessed because of missed mortgage payments.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer