The number of homeless children who will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation stands at more than 124,000, government figures have revealed.
Many will be in hostels and bed and breakfasts located miles from their original homes and families,with the figure rising by more than 10 per cent since last year.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said 21,400 homeless households, accounting for 29 per cent of all those in temporary accommodation in England, have been moved away to a different council area – a 15 per cent rise in household numbers in the last year, according to the figures.
The figures, which were quietly released by the Government 10 days before Christmas, have been described as “shocking” and “hugely worrying” by leading homeless charities.
It comes as Centrepoint issues a stark warning about the number of young homeless people who will be facing problems this Christmas, some of whom have families of their own.
Kiera Piper, 17, has been living in temporary accommodation with her partner and baby son for six months, and will be spending Christmas in a hostel in which “everything is shared”.
The young family have been moved three times since June, being shifted between different hotels and hostels, sometimes more than 10 miles from where they work.
Ms Piper told The Independent: “My son turned one in October. It’s his second Christmas, so he'll remember it better this year. I'm disappointed that we'll be spending it in this hostel where everything is shared, and not in our own home where we should be.
"It's not the nicest of places, but the only thing we can do is try and make the most of it and make it as Christmassy as we can for his sake.”
The causes of homelessness
The causes of homelessness
1/7 Family Breakdown
Relationship breakdown, usually between young people and their parents or step-parents, is a major cause of youth homelessness. Around six in ten young people who come to Centrepoint say they had to leave home because of arguments, relationship breakdown or being told to leave. Many have experienced long-term problems at home, often involving violence, leaving them without the family support networks that most of us take for granted
2/7 Complex needs
Young people who come to Centrepoint face a range of different and complex problems. More than a third have a mental health issue, such as depression and anxiety, another third need to tackle issues with substance misuse. A similar proportion also need to improve their physical health. These problems often overlap, making it more difficult for young people to access help and increasing the chances of them becoming homeless
Young people's chances of having to leave home are higher in areas of high deprivation and poor prospects for employment and education. Many of those who experience long spells of poverty can get into problem debt, which makes it harder for them to access housing
4/7 Gang Crime
Homeless young people are often affected by gang-related problems. In some cases, it becomes too dangerous to stay in their local area meaning they can end up homeless. One in six young people at Centrepoint have been involved in or affected by gang crime
5/7 Exclusion From School
Not being in education can make it much more difficult for young people to access help with problems at home or health problems. Missing out on formal education can also make it more difficult for them to move into work
6/7 Leaving Care
Almost a quarter of young people at Centrepoint have been in care. They often have little choice but to deal with the challenges and responsibilities of living independently at a young age. Traumas faced in their early lives make care leavers some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities, with higher chances of poor outcomes in education, employment and housing. Their additional needs mean they require a higher level of support to maintain their accommodation
Around 13 per cent of young people at Centrepoint are refugees or have leave to remain, meaning it isn't safe to return home. This includes young people who come to the UK as unaccompanied minors, fleeing violence or persecution in their own country. After being granted asylum, young people sometimes find themselves with nowhere to go and can end up homeless
The government data reveals a rise of more than 300 per cent since 2014 in the number of families in England who are being housed illegally - for more than the statutory maximum period of six weeks - in B&Bs by local authorities because they cannot find any alternative places.
In reaction to the figures, Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Today’s figures paint a desperate picture of the thousands of families facing not only the trauma of homelessness, but also the prospect of having to move away from their friends, families and everything they hold dear.
“It’s especially heartbreaking to know that so many children will find themselves waking up without somewhere to call home this Christmas morning.”
Mr Robb blamed a “perfect storm” of a lack of affordable homes, soaring rents and cuts to welfare, all of which are pushing more and more families to crisis point.
Centrepoint said the latest figures echoed the rocketing numbers of young people who will be facing difficult circumstances over the festive season.
Its head of public affairs, Paul Noblet, said: “These figures are going up year on year, and while it’s a hugely worrying increase, it is not surprising. These figures echo our own which show that 25,000 young people will be facing different choices that Christmas.
“At Centrepoint we have seen the human cost as the financial pressures on local authorities, huge rent increases, and stubbornly high levels of long-term youth unemployment translate into more and more young people struggling to find a place to live.”
The charity has stressed that there is growing pressure on homelessness services, amid the cuts, along with an increase in the demand for housing, particularly in London, with up to a third of the young people who seek homelessness support from English local authorities each year being sent away with little or no advice.
Through its Helpline, Centrepoint will provide early-intervention housing support to the growing numbers of young people already on the streets or at risk of homelessness.