Homeless charity emergency helpline flooded with nearly 10,000 calls from Londoners in two months

A homeless charity’s emergency helpline has been flooded with calls from more than 9,700 people in London in the last two months, with a new person calling every four and a half minutes.  

One in three people who called for help are families with children, with more than 12,000 London families calling since March, according to homeless charity Shelter.

Of the families who’ve reached out for help during the pandemic 66 per cent were already homeless or at risk of homelessness, 28 per cent needed urgent help to find temporary homeless accommodation and 16 per cent needed help to try and keep hold of their current home

Umer, a 44-year-old taxi driver was living at a friend’s house when it was repossessed just before the pandemic broke out, and he had to leave the property on the same day. A call to the council for help proved unsuccessful, so he turned to the only place he could find to sleep – his car.

Umer said: “Those 44 days living in my car were terrible. My back problem meant that sleeping in the front seat was very painful. I couldn’t wash or brush my teeth. At night, I’d park on a quiet street, but I still felt very exposed and vulnerable. I was worried I might be attacked.

“I had nothing and nowhere to go. No friends could even help me, and then the lockdown started. When you’re homeless, you feel like a dead person.”

The charity’s frontline services data mirrors the results from its Covid monitor, run by YouGov, which shows 24 per cent of families in London are worried they will become homeless as a result of the pandemic, and 17 per cent have already gone to the extreme of cutting back on food for themselves in a desperate bid to pay their rent or mortgage.

Connie Cullen, hub manager at Shelter London, said: “2020 has been an incredibly tough year. Those of us with a safe home to spend lockdown in can count ourselves lucky, when we know just how many families are living through this pandemic without one. Our emergency helpline is open 365 days a year because we don’t want anyone to face homelessness alone this winter or beyond.

“But as more people turn to us for help, we urgently need the public’s support to keep answering their calls. Something as simple as buying a festive sandwich from M&S could make all the difference to a family whose home is on the line.”

Shelter has joined forces with supermarket Marks & Spencer this winter to ensure it can keep up with the demand for its services.

Shelter is urging the public to help by buying a festive lunch from M&S. A percentage of every sale from the festive lunch range goes directly towards the emergency helpline – and in the last year funded one in two of the calls answered.

Picture: credit Alan Light

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