Shelter sounds alarm as more than 1,000 people a day call emergency helpline

Posted 30 Nov 2021

Since the Covid restrictions began to lift in June 2021, more than 1,000 callers a day have contacted Shelter’s emergency helpline in England, new data reveals today.

The charity’s free helpline, which is part funded by M&S Food, has been inundated with more than 60,000 people ringing in need of urgent support and advice between June and October 2021. Of those calling 70% were already homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Vital Covid protections, such as the evictions ban, were critical in keeping thousands safe in their homes. But as they have gradually wound down and living costs have shot up thousands of people have been contacting the housing charity for help.

The nature of the calls Shelter receives shows just how urgent the situation has become:

  • One in four callers (24%) needed urgent help to find temporary accommodation

  • More than one in four (26%) needed help to try and keep hold of their current home

With the latest government figures showing a household becomes homeless every four minutes, Shelter is warning a difficult winter lies ahead for its services at the frontline of the housing emergency. Its dedicated team of helpline advisers are preparing to answer calls from huge numbers of people facing homelessness and hardship in the months to come.

Andrea Deakin, Helpline Manager at Shelter, said: “The last year has been hard, and 2022 is going to be just as tough. Now Covid protections have ended and living costs are soaring, we’re answering calls from thousands of people who are homeless or about to be.”

One of the reasons Shelter can keep its emergency helpline open 365 days a year is through its longstanding partnership with M&S Food. A percentage of every sale from M&S’s festive Food on the Move range, including Christmas sandwiches, goes directly towards the emergency helpline.

“We’re working every day, including Christmas day, to make sure no one faces homelessness alone, but we’ve got our work cut out. By the time we get that call most people have exhausted every other avenue - from the family about to be evicted, to the person facing another night sleeping in their car. As well as helping us to give expert support, everyone who picks something up from M&S’s Food on the Move range, is giving hope for a brighter 2022.”

The funds raised from M&S’s festive Food on the Move range will help people like Simon and his family. The Southend-based family were facing homelessness after they were served an eviction notice on Simon’s birthday. With the support of Shelter’s helpline team, he, his wife and their three children have been able to secure a social home.

Simon said: “Securing somewhere to live during a pandemic, was completely exhausting. The stress chipped away at us and the kids felt it too. It’d be the first thing in my mind when I woke up and the last thing before bed. Another day worrying if the bailiffs would come knocking. The anxiety was crushing – I’d get up, throw up and prepare myself for another day fighting for my home.

“What can you say when your kid asks where we’ll be spending Christmas? I couldn’t make promises because I didn’t know where we’d be. Shelter have enabled us to set down roots in a safe home. Now my kids are so excited for their first Christmas in a stable home, and we are too – all of that worry has gone. None of this would have been possible without Shelter’s fantastic helpline advisers.”

Jo Daniels, Head of Partnerships at M&S said: “We’ve been supporting Shelter since 2005 and are incredibly proud of the work they do. Not only do we support through our Festive Food on the Move range, but Shelter is also one of our Sparks charities meaning customers can help every time they shop.”


Anyone who is facing homelessness can get free and expert advice through Shelter’s emergency helpline, webchat service and online advice pages. Visit to find out more.

Notes to editors:

Shelter’s Emergency Helpline Data

  • All figures relate to data collected by Shelter’s National Helpline in England, between 01/06/2021 to 31/10/2021

  • The number of people calling per day (1,000) is based on the average number of calls daily during the period 01/06/2021 to 31/10/2021. The total number of calls received in this period was 148,534.

  • The number of people needing urgent support and advice (60,182 people) is the number of unique callers ringing from individual phone numbers to the helpline. Repeat calls from the same number have only been counted once to allow us to estimate number of unique callers rather than number of calls.

  • “Families” is defined as callers who have dependents/ children and includes people who are pregnant but do not already have dependents/children. 21,954 families with children have called the helpline between 01/06/2021 to 31/10/2021.

  • The percentage of people ‘homeless or at risk of homelessness’ includes all categories where the person indicated they were homeless or there was some risk of homelessness even if that wasn’t in the next 56 days.

  • The percentage of people calling needing help finding accommodation or keeping their home is based on calls answered by the helpline.

The latest government homelessness statistics:

  • The rate of households becoming homeless in the last quarter is calculated by dividing the total number of minutes from 1st April to 30th June (131,040) by the number of households that were owed a relief duty in the same period. 34,830 households were owed a relief duty from April to June 2021. This is available at MHCLG, Statutory Homelessness Live tables, Initial assessments of statutory homelessness duties owed, Table A1

About Shelter: Shelter exists to defend the right to a safe home and fight the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people and society. Shelter believes that home is everything. Learn more at

About Shelter’s Winter Appeal 2021: Join Shelter now in the fight against homelessness and bad housing. The people who use Shelter’s services are giving it all they can to fight for a safe home. By giving a little you can help Shelter do a lot - the public’s ongoing generosity means the charity can keeping providing support and advice to thousands of people this winter and beyond. Visit