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Charity helpline receives a call for help every 30 seconds as demand surges

Posted 14 Nov 2016

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter is appealing for help to fund its free helpline after seeing a surge in demand, with nearly 500,000 calls received in the past year alone.

In a sign of the deepening housing crisis, the number of calls to the charity’s helpline - which is part-funded by M&S - has increased by 50,000, with a call now received every 30 seconds.  Worryingly, nearly one in four cases dealt with by the Shelter helpline in the past year were people who were homeless or within 28 days of losing their home.

Fifty years since Shelter was first founded, more people are turning to the charity desperate for help. Recent analysis by the charity revealed that over 120,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless on Christmas morning – the highest level in nearly a decade. That’s why Shelter is calling on the public to help support its frontline advisers meet the demand.

5% of every sale from M&S’s ‘Food On The Move’ festive range goes directly towards the helpline and funds one in five of the calls it answers.  Since the partnership began in 2005, the money raised has helped thousands of families to find and keep a home. Buying a festive lunch from M&S is an easy way to support Shelter this Christmas and will make a real difference to struggling families across the country.

Nadeem Khan, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: “Every day at Shelter we speak to people faced with losing their home but when a parent calls us, desperate to keep a roof over their child’s head, nothing is more heart-breaking.

“Our team of expert advisers work 365 days a year to make sure that no-one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own. If it wasn’t for the money raised by M&S customers, thousands of calls for help would go unanswered.

“That’s why we’re calling on people to buy their lunch from M&S’s festive ‘food on the move’ range to help raise hundreds of thousands of pounds and together, be there for people who need us. Something as simple as buying a sandwich this Christmas really could be the difference between a family losing their home and keeping it.”

Mike Barry, Director of Plan A at M&S, said: “This year marks Shelter’s 50th anniversary, but the surge in calls to the helpline, makes it clear that Shelter is as needed now as at any time in its long history. And that’s exactly why our partnership with the charity remains hugely important to M&S and to our customers.”

Case study: Kimberley and her husband Mark live in Buckinghamshire with their two young children. Kimberley was heavily pregnant with her youngest when they became homeless after losing their rented home and spent last Christmas in a hostel. Thanks to the support Kimberley received from the Shelter helpline, they’re looking forward to spending this Christmas in their own home.

“We were living in a privately rented flat until our landlord told us they were selling up. We tried really hard to find a new place to rent but we couldn’t. When I realised my family were going to become homeless, I contacted Shelter straight away and spoke to them at every stage. The eviction process is so long and confusing that you really need that advice.

“A couple of days before the bailiffs arrived last December, the council moved us to a hostel – a tiny space for all of us. The experience of being homeless was soul-destroying. I was worried we would end up with nowhere at all. But Shelter help people get confidence. Every time I called, the advisers helped me with the next step. It was absolutely invaluable.

“Then in September, we were told we could move into a flat, which would be our permanent home. Thanks to Shelter, we’re looking forward to our first Christmas in our new home.”

Notes to editors:

Shelter helps 4 million people a year fight bad housing and homelessness. For free and independent advice from Shelter visit or call the helpline on 0808 800 4444

  • The number of calls made to Shelter’s helpline rose to 494,570in the financial year 2015/2016, compared with 443,929in the financial year 2014/2015 – an increase of 11 percent, or 50,641more calls.

  • Shelter’s free, national helpline is open is open Monday- Friday from 8am to 8pm, Saturday- Sunday 8am-5pm

  • Shelter’s national helpline receives a call for help every 30 seconds. This is based on the opening times for the helpline (see below- 4,056 hours in a year) and the total number of calls the helpline received in 2015/16. Shelter classifies the helpline calls answered according to the caller’s risk of homelessness. 24% of calls classified were from someone who was facing homelessness in the next 28 days, who is already homeless or will be that evening.

  • The number of homeless children in Great Britain is based on the latest government statistics on homelessness from England. We added the number of children in temporary accommodation in England and Scotland. We added the number of children in temporary accommodation in England and Scotland together, and estimated the number of children in temporary accommodation in Scotland together, and estimated the number of children in temporary accommodation in Wales. We added the number of children in temporary accommodation in England and Scotland together, and estimated the number of children in temporary accommodation in

  • Since 2005, Marks & Spencer and their customers have been supporting the Shelter Helpline through a limited edition Christmas Food on the Move range, raising £2.3 million. In November and December, for every item sold from the Christmas range of its Food on the Move, M&S will make a 5% donation to Shelter’s Helpline.

  • Marks and Spencer’s £2.3 million contribution to the operation of the Helpline means this year, it is responsible for one in five calls to the helpline being answered by Shelter.

  • Live Chat is a service offered by Shelter’s Helpline to provide more choice in the way clients can get in touch with us. This online service sees advisers handling housing worries over web chat on Shelter’s public website. We have helped over 24,000 people with bad housing or homelessness on this service alone.

  • Shelter’s free, national telephone advice line is opened Monday-Friday from 8am to 8pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-5pm. Shelter’s trained housing advisers can give immediate and practical assistance and explain your rights, while suggesting specialist or local support services that can help longer term. For housing advice call 0808 800 4444.