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Sharp rise in homelessness fears
Housing charity Shelter is warning that it has seen a sharp increase in demand for help among people at risk of becoming homeless.
Shelter said it has seen an 80% increase over three years in the number of people its helpline has assisted who are either homeless or face losing their home.
The number of families with children at risk of homelessness who have called the charity for help has soared by 92% over the period.
The findings come after Shelter's Christmas appeal warned that 75,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless this Christmas, living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts or hostels.
The charity raised fears that rising rents and living costs and "flatlining" wages will result in more families struggling to keep up with their housing payments in the months ahead.
Shelter said that 23,086 clients at risk of homelessness were helped by its helpline in the 12 months to the end of September, compared with 12,852 in the 12 months leading up to September 2010. Some 7,360 families with children at risk of homelessness contacted the helpline in the 12 months to the end of this September, showing a "worrying" increase on the 3,829 who did so in the 12 months to September 2010, the charity said.
Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: "These figures are a shocking reminder of the daily battle so many families are facing just to keep a roof over their head. Through our helpline, Shelter offers vital help to people who have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to turn."
A string of energy companies have recently announced price hikes, placing further pressure on struggling families this winter. Comparison website uSwitch said this week that five years ago, the typical annual cost of heating stood at £360 - but this has escalated to an average of £587 - showing a 63%, or £227, increase.
Shelter said that, over the past year, its website has seen a 17% surge in visits to pages providing homelessness advice, with more than 330,000 visitors, following a smaller 3% increase the year before.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "This country has one of the strongest homelessness safety nets in the world and the bigger picture is that homelessness is actually lower than for 28 of the last 30 years. But there is always more that can be done. That's why we have recently set out a cross-Government approach to ensuring that anyone at risk of homelessness gets help at the earliest possible stage to prevent them from losing their home. The Government has also maintained funding for the Homelessness Grant with £400 million over the next four years, and on top of that have announced an additional £70 million investment over the last year."