Shelter’s emergency helpline has been flooded with calls from more than 1,100 people in Greater Manchester in the last two months, with a new person calling every 37 minutes.
New data reveals that, since the pandemic disruptions began in March, more than 4,300 people from Greater Manchester have called the charity’s free national helpline, which is part-funded by M&S. Shelter’s team of frontline advisers are warning of a deeply difficult winter ahead, as even more people face homelessness and hard ship after losing income or jobs.
In a worrying sign of the times, one in 3 people calling Shelter for help are families with children, with more than 1,500 Greater Manchester families calling since March.
Of the families who’ve reached out for help during the pandemic, 66% were already homeless or at risk of homelessness, 27% needed urgent help to find temporary homeless accommodation and 18% needed help to try and keep hold of their current home.
John Ryan, hub manager at Shelter Manchester, said: “2020 has been an incredibly tough year. Those of us with a safe home to spend lockdown in can count ourselves lucky, when we know just how many families are living through this pandemic without one. Our emergency helpline is open 365 days a year because we don’t want anyone to face homelessness alone this winter or beyond.
“But as more people turn to us for help, we urgently need the public’s support to keep answering their calls. Something as simple as buying a festive sandwich from M&S could make all the difference to a family whose home is on the line.”
The charity’s frontline services data mirrors the results from its Covidmonitor, run by YouGov. This shows 22% of families in Greater Manchesterare worried they will become homeless as a result of the pandemic, and 11%have already gone to the extreme of cutting back on food for themselves in a desperate bid to pay their rent or mortgage.
M&S food ambassador and TV presenter Emma Willis is supporting Shelter this year. She said: “I’m so grateful that I was able to stay safe in my home with my kids throughout this unpredictable year. But not all families have had that luxury – and the chaos of the pandemic means that more people are facing homelessness for the first time. Over a million families in England are worried they’ll become homeless as a result. So, pick up an M&S sandwich – and help Shelter pick up the phone for the families who need them.”
To ensure it can keep up with the demand for its services this winter and beyond, Shelter is urging the public to help by buying a festive lunch from M&S. A percentage of every sale from the festive lunch range goes directly towards the emergency helpline – and in the last year funded one in two of the calls answered.
The vital funds raised for Shelter through M&S’s festive lunch range will make a real difference to people who are struggling right across the country – people like Umer. The 44-year-old taxi driver from London was living at a friend’s house when it was repossessed just before the pandemic broke out, and he had to leave the same day.A call to the council for help proved unsuccessful, so he turned to the only place he could find to sleep – his car.
Umersaid: “Those 44 days living in my car were terrible. My back problem meant that sleeping in the front seat was very painful. I couldn’t wash or brush my teeth. At night, I’d park on a quiet street, but I still felt very exposed and vulnerable. I was worried I might be attacked.
“I had nothing and nowhere to go. No friends could even help me, and then the lockdown started. When you’re homeless, you feel like a dead person.”
Umercalled Shelter’s emergency helpline and spoke to adviser Claire Bedford, who intervened with his local council to remind them of their duties to vulnerable people, help which Umerdescribes as “brilliant”.
“Clare mentioned all the rules from the government. It was absolutely tremendous – I have no other words to say,” he added.
As a result of Shelter’s helpline intervention, the council did place Umerin temporary accommodation in a matter of hours. Delighted to have a bed to sleep in, but still in need of somewhere to live long-term, Umerfound a flat with Shelter’s help – one with lift access, to help him with his back problem.
Since moving in, Umerfeels life has restarted, and he’s now planning his future – with ambitions to start his own takeaway business.