AN increasing number of families will face homelessness in the North East this Christmas, a charity has warned.
Around 200 children in the region will spend Christmas Day in temporary accommodation and homeless figures are set to rise over the next 12 months.
Figures released by housing charity Shelter show that the number of homeless people has risen by 87% in the last three years. The number of families with children at risk of homelessness calling the Shelter telephone helpline has also doubled over the same period.
Last night, chief executive of charity Children North East, warned figures would continue to rise as families struggle to cope with changes to welfare reforms and housing benefit.
Jeremy Cripps, said: “I expect figures to be even larger after universal credits and changes to housing benefits are introduced.
“There’s to be a great rise in 12 months nationally and in the North East. What happens in the rest of the country has an impact here.”
The charity works alongside Newcastle city council to accommodate families who find themselves homeless, often due to domestic violence or an inability to pay their rent.
While there are highly specialist facilities for temporarily housing homeless families in Newcastle – that are among the best in the country – the upheaval homelessness brings the city’s children is still devastating.
He said: “It’s extremely disruptive because when you leave your home you are often leaving through fear of domestic violence.
“Children are leaving their schools, their toys, personal belongings and clothes and photographs.
“Our role is to help children settle and help the mother, who is often focused on getting away from a partner, and we try to find the spaces where children can be themselves for a while.”
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, is also concerned that rising rents, increasing living costs and flatlining wages mean more and more families will struggle to keep up with their housing payments and could be at risk of losing their home in the months ahead.
He said: “These figures are a shocking reminder of the daily battle so many families in the North East are facing just to keep a roof over their head.
“Through our helpline Shelter offers vital help to people who have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to turn. Our advisers give them the advice and support they need to get back on their feet.
Shelter’s Helpline, which is co-funded by Marks and Spencer, has already provided help to 57,000 people across the country so far this year.
Each Christmas, 5p from every item sold in the M&S Christmas Food On The Move also goes to support Shelter’s Helpline.