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CHILDREN LIVING A NIGHTMARE IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION

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Shelter estimates over 100,000 children in England are officially homeless, from analysis of government figures. Ma...
Shelter estimates over 100,000 children in England are officially homeless, from analysis of government figures. Many of these children are suffering from the instability of being placed only in temporary accommodation.

Shelter's concern comes as government figures published todayshow a record number of 75,320 households, including families with children, are being housed in temporary accommodation. This is a rise of 11 per cent (7,620 households) on the same quarter last year. Of these, 11,340 households are being housed in B&Bs, a 25 per cent rise on the same quarter last year. Shelter says the proportion of people in B&Bs now accounts for one in seven of those in temporary accommodation.

The damage to children is particularly severe as the lack of cooking and washing facilities leads to serious health problems. Coupled with the instability and stress of living in overcrowded conditions indefinitely it is extremely detrimental to their schooling and can seriously delay their development.

The government's new Bed and Breakfast Unit, which starts work this month, is aiming to reduce the numbers in B&B nationwide. Shelter is campaigning for a national target to significantly reduce the number of homeless households in B&B. But the charity says reducing the numbers in temporary accommodation as a whole is only possible if there is significant extra investment in building affordable homes.

Chris Holmes, director of Shelter said: 'Nothing depresses me more than seeing homeless families languishing in temporary accommodation with no end in sight. They are unable to get on with their lives. Homeless people in B&Bs often feel they are being imprisoned between four walls with a whole family sharing one room. Sharing washing and limited cooking facilities with strangers, worrying about the irreversible damage caused to your children by ill health with no space to play and develop is degrading. It also puts enormous stress on all of the family.'

NOTES

Record numbers in temporary accommodation

Local authorities have a duty to provide temporary accommodation to homeless households who are in 'priority need'. This includes families with children and people who are considered vulnerable.

Number of households Percentage rise on same quarter on previous year

Quarter 1 (March 1997) 41,620

Quarter 2 (June 1997) 43,650

Quarter 1 (March `1998) 47,480 14 per cent

Quarter 2 (June 1998) 48,510 11 per cent

Quarter 1 (March 1999) 56,240 18 per cent

Quarter 2 (June 1999) 58,310 20 per cent

Quarter 1 (March 2000) 64,780 15 per cent

Quarter 2 (June 2000) 67,700 16 per cent

Quarter 1 (March 2001) 75,120 16 per cent

Quarter 2 (June 2001) 75,320 (Highest ever) 11 per cent

Rise in use of bed and breakfast accommodation

Number of households Percentage rise on same quarter on previous year

September 1991 13,500 (Highest ever)

Quarter 1 1997 4,100

Quarter 1 1998 4,990 22 per cent

Quarter 1 1999 7,460 49 per cent

Quarter 1 2000 8,700 17 per cent

Quarter 2 2000 9,070

Quarter 1 (March 2001) 10,830 24 per cent

Quarter 2 (June 2001) 11,340 25 per cent

Shortage of affordable homes

Shelter estimates that over 100,000 affordable homes will be required each year between 2000 and 2011. During 2000 just over 17,000 new units of social housing were completed.

Case studies

DTLR Homelessness Statistics Release - Case Study 1

Fatima Mokaled, 38, London

Mrs Mokaled applied to her local council as homeless and was found Bed & Breakfast accommodation when she and her two children arrived in this country from the Lebanon in September 1997. She was told that she would be there on a temporary basis until more suitable accommodation could be found.

The family remained in the B&B for four years, for three years of which they lived in just one room. There was nowhere for the children to play, so Mrs Mokaled would take them out to the park or the library every day. There was also a problem with other residents in the B&B causing noise and disturbance.

The children's health suffered from the bad conditions at the B&B. Mrs Mokaled's son has asthma which grew progressively worse while they were staying there and he had to visit their doctor regularly for treatment.

The family contacted the Bayswater Families Centre last year and received advice from the NCH social worker on housing and benefits. The children were also able to use a playroom and other facilities which were not available at the B&B. When the Local Authority tried to move the family to another B&B in Kings Cross, uprooting them from their support network and the children from their school, Shelter's housing adviser liaised with the local authority and better temporary accommodation was found for them.

The family is now temporarily housed in a Housing Association flat near the B&B. There are facilities nearby for the children, they are enrolled in school, and their son's asthma has improved dramatically.

DTLR Homelessness Statistics Release - Case Study 2

* names have been changed to protect identity

Rob (20) and Lynn (19) left their home to escape threats of violence in February this year. They could find nowhere to stay, so returned and applied to the local council as homeless after spending three nights sleeping on the streets. Their application was initially rejected and they were placed in Bed & Breakfast accommodation while the decision was reviewed.

Lynn had suffered from health problems since she was 18, when she had an operation to remove her thyroid. At the time of their stay in the B&B, she was undergoing medical investigations into lumps growing around her neck and was very anxious and distressed. Eventually, she was diagnosed as having Hodgkins Disease and told that she would require radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Conditions at the B&B were not at all suitable for someone undergoing such treatment. Some of the other tenants were noisy and violent, and staff would routinely let themselves into the couple's room in the early morning, meaning that Lynn could not get the rest that she needed.

At one point a resident at the B&B was stabbed to death while trying to intervene in an assault by the ex-partner of another resident. The incident happened in the hallway near Rob and Lynn's room. The stress of having to share facilities with others who were clearly very violent caused a great deal of stress to the couple, particularly as they had initially become homeless when they left their local area to escape threats of violence against them.

Rob and Lynn contacted Shelter in April, who pursued the Council to review their rejection of the homelessness application. The review was successful and the couple have now been rehoused. Lynn's medical treatment is ongoing.

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