Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No home to rest

It just wouldn't be Christmas if the press did not report the plight of the homeless.

The homeless charity Shelter are taking 500 calls a day from distraught people. Last year there was a 15% increase in the volume of calls - a reflection of the degree to which people are struggling with rising house prices, soaring rents, cuts to housing benefit and the long shadow of the recession. Workers on zero-hours contracts are not viewed as unreliable tenants.

 Council staff in housing departments are under increased pressure - they haven't got any housing stock. Official homelessness figures released in early December showed that 2,100 homeless families in England were living in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation – the highest number in a decade. The total number of families living in all forms of temporary accommodation rose by 5% on the previous year. There was a sharp increase in the number of people formally accepted as homeless in London. A quarter of calls come from London, a sign of the extreme prices in the capital.

Liz Clare, team leader at the Shelter helpline,  says her work is becoming increasingly difficult. "It is clear from working the helplines that pretty much anyone can have a housing problem. You can go from being comfortably housed to being on the brink of eviction, just by losing a job or getting ill," she says. "There is a shortage of housing and it is very, very expensive. People's salaries are not going up. People are really, really struggling. It has become more difficult to get help because of changes to legal aid.”

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