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Double number of families facing a homeless Christmas

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 01, 2012

Double number of families facing a homeless Christmas

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The number of people facing homelessness at Christmas in the West Country has nearly doubled in three years, as stagnating wages struggle to compete with rapidly rising rents.

Since 2009, calls to a helpline run by housing charity Shelter from homeless people or those on the verge of losing their home have risen by 86 per cent, with calls from at-risk families with children up by 77 per cent.

The findings come after the organisation's Christmas appeal warned that 2,000 children in the South West will wake up homeless this Christmas, living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts or hostels.

In country as a whole, 75,000 children are expected to spend Christmas without a permanent home. Calls to Shelter from at-risk across the UK have risen by a massive 92 per cent. The charity says it is increasingly concerned that rising rents, increasing living costs and flatlining wages mean more families will struggle to keep up with payments and could be at risk of losing their home in the months ahead.

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However, it conceded in its Housing Report, published last month, that "the proactive approach of the previous administration to support home owners has helped", though urged caution over predicted rises in interest rates.

Campbell Robb, the charity's chief executive, said homelessness remained a major issue, even in 2012.

"These figures are a shocking reminder of the daily battle so many families in the South West are facing just to keep a roof over their head," he said.

The last statistics published – in February – on the number of rough sleepers put the South West as having the third highest number, with 337, after London (446) and the South East (430).

The figures, which were based on counts and estimates from every local authority in England, to generate a single-night snapshot, suggested rough sleeping had increased by 23 per cent from 1,768 to 2,181 between 2010 and 2011.

Such figures were brought into stark relief last week, when 21-year-old Michelle Conroy died in Exeter when the tent in which she slept was crushed beneath a falling tree. The coffin of another homeless man, Michael Gething, who died during the recent terrible weather will later this month be carried through the streets of Totnes, Devon, to highlight the plight of rough sleepers. The 41-year-old is thought to have died from hypothermia and campaigners said that as many as five homeless people have perished outdoors since last Christmas.

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  • JJLee  |  December 03 2012, 7:39AM

    Well said Cknocker, I have been guilty of such judgements in the past, until one of my neighbours lost everything when her other half played away and left her with nothing the council refused to help, she stayed with us for a while and we ended up keeping the kids pets whilst they sorted themselves out and they used to come round after school. It is so easy for you to lose everything

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  • Cknocker  |  December 02 2012, 10:42PM

    My wife got talking to homeless man in his 70's in Camborne earlier this year - he was a very proud man, pulling out a tin from his great coat, showing her his wings from the RAF and his photo of him in his uniform. Like a lot of homeless he had a drink, but thats probably the only comfort he has. He was on his way at the time to the council offices, where they were offering train tickets to the homeless - he wanted to go back to Sheffield - where he was born. Its easy to be critical of the homeless without knowing the circumstances, some of them really are in a desperate hole that they feel they have no way out of. It never ceases to amaze me driving along the sea front on the way into Penzance and up on the A30 above Penzance the number of tents pitched. The frightening thing about the figures stated is the two areas with a higher number of people homeless than the South west is the massively over populated South East and London.

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  • stevepz  |  December 02 2012, 10:23PM

    It's not just rents going up. petrol, food, taxes. Are landlords supposed to put rents down when everything else is going up? A lot of people use the term greedy landlords. What people forget is that some people have invested wisely in a second property in order to provide a pension in later life. They have it bad enough with tenants not paying rent and being unable to get them out. And lets not forget when the rent is paid that is a taxable income. And now they are being blamed for the homeless crisis.

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  • cornishbabe70  |  December 01 2012, 4:11PM

    Campaigners said that as many as five homeless people have perished outdoors since last christmas.Now how many of those were actual families?None i bet,those that died were single people,homelessness is not just a problem for families,it can happen to anyone i get sick and tired of reading news articles when times get hard that it seems to be families are the only ones who are suffering.

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