Emergency helpline ‘called once every minute’ by people facing homelessness

PA

A housing charity has sounded the alarm as it revealed its emergency helpline is being contacted once a minute and a third of callers are from families with children.

Shelter is appealing for help from the public so it can continue answering calls from people who are facing homelessness.

Almost 25,000 people in England have contacted the charity in the last two months, with a new person calling every minute, it said.

Since March, the helpline, part funded by Marks & Spencer, has been contacted by more than 90,000 people, including 31,625 families.

Shelter said families are cutting back on food so they can pay their rent and is warning of a “deeply difficult winter ahead”.

It is urging the public to buy a festive lunch from M&S – with a percentage of proceeds going towards the helpline.

Helpline manager Andrea Deakin said: “2020 has been an incredibly tough year. I think myself so lucky to have a safe home when I 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. But as more people turn to us, we urgently need the public’s support to keep answering their calls.”

M&S food ambassador and TV presenter Emma Willis said: “I’m so grateful that I was able to stay safe in my home with my kids throughout this unpredictable year.

“But not all families have had that luxury – and the chaos of the pandemic means that more people are facing homelessness for the first time.

“Over a million families in England are worried they’ll become homeless as a result. So, pick up an M&S sandwich – and help Shelter pick up the phone for the families who need them.”

Chris Seaby, head of product development for the M&S festive lunch range, said: “The M&S and Shelter partnership has been helping to keep people safe in their homes for 15 years.

“During that time, we have proudly supported hundreds of thousands of people and families facing homelessness.

“We fully support Shelter’s belief that nobody should face homelessness alone – and are proud that buying something tasty from our festive lunch range is a simple way to make a big difference.

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