Shelter issues warning ahead of critical Christmas season, as free helpline receives a call every 22 seconds

Shocking new figures show Shelter received a call for help every 22 seconds in the run up to Christmas last year, and the charity is warning that the situation this winter could be set to get worse.

New research from Shelter and M&S shows that in 2016 the charity’s helpline received over a hundred thousand calls in the two months leading into Christmas – while more than 500 calls were made on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone.

A crippling combination of rising homelessness, sky-high rents, problems with Universal Credit and a dearth of affordable homes means the charity is preparing for huge numbers of people struggling with homelessness and housing problems to come to them for support.

And with calls to the free Shelter helpline increasing by 25 per cent over the past year, their expert advisers are overwhelmed with pleas for housing help.

The Shelter helpline is funded by M&S customers throughout the festive season, with 5 per cent of every purchase made from the ‘Festive Collection for Shelter’ going directly to the charity. This means the helpline can offer housing advice and support every single day of the year for people battling bad housing and homelessness.

Mark Cook, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: 

“Every Christmas I speak to parents in despair as they face the trauma of homelessness, when they should be filling stockings and looking forward to Christmas dinner.

“Even though I’ll be working at Christmas, I think myself so lucky to be able to go home at the end of the day when there are so many families having to go without such a basic need.

“No family should face the agony of losing the roof over their heads, which is why we’re calling on people to get their lunch from M&S’s Festive Collection for Shelter. Something as simple as buying a sandwich could make the world of difference to a family whose home is on the line this Christmas.”

Mike Barry, Plan A Director at M&S, said:

“We know our customers care about this issue and purchasing lunch from our Festive Collection for Shelter is a small, simple way they can make a big difference this Christmas. With calls to the Shelter helpline increasing by 25 per cent over the past year it’s more important than ever we support this important cause.”

Case study: Andrea was evicted from her home after her private landlord put up the rent and she was unable to keep up with her payments. Andrea spent Christmas homeless and eventually rang the Shelter helpline, desperate for help.

“When I was made homeless the council told me they couldn’t rehouse my whole family because my son was grown up – even though he had never lived away from us. But after calling the Shelter helpline, their legal advisers turned things around and stopped us from being split apart.

“Mentally I’m a strong person, I’ve been through quite a lot – but this pushed me to my limit. I felt as though nobody had time for me, nobody was really interested in me. I was just another statistic. The Shelter helpline was my saviour and the best thing I’ve ever done. If hadn’t called that day, I would be in a very, very bad place and without my son.”

Due to the help from Shelter, Andrea is now housed by the council with her whole family and has been able to get back into full time work.