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Calls to homelessness helpline soar

A housing and homelessness charity which has seen a "heart-breaking" surge from callers at serious risk of losing their home is urgently appealing for support for its helpline.

Over the last year, Shelter's helpline advisers have spoken to more than 51,000 callers on the brink of homelessness - a 28% surge from 2012, and the equivalent to nearly 1000 calls every week.

The charity is expecting even more families to be in desperate need of its help this Christmas.

The number of people at risk of homelessness who called the Shelter helpline from October 2013 to September 2014 rose to 51,364, compared with 40,226 from October 2011 to September 2012 - a rise of 11,138 or 28%.

Recent Shelter analysis of Government statistics revealed that nearly 600 households in England are at risk of losing their home every day.

Nadeem Khan, Shelter helpline adviser, said: "It's so heart-breaking to hear from families struggling to keep a roof over their heads, especially around this time of year.

"Hearing the panic in a parent's voice when they've just been evicted or had their home repossessed never gets any easier.

"Sadly, every year we get more and more of these calls over the holidays, and this Christmas will be no different."

A woman, named by the charity as Sasha, called the Shelter helpline after she and her young son were evicted from their property and had nowhere else to turn.

She said: "Shelter was there when I was at my lowest. By failing to provide basic accommodation for my child, I felt I had failed him and there was no hope.

"The Shelter adviser showed me that there was a way out of the situation and was there to offer support and advice to help me get back on my feet.

"Thankfully we're now moving into a new home in time for Christmas - if I hadn't made that phone call I don't know where we'd be."

The helpline is in part funded by Marks & Spencer.

Homelessness minister Kris Hopkins said the Government is giving £10 million to Shelter and the Citizen's Advice Bureau to run the National Homelessness Advice Service, which supports frontline staff working with homeless people.

He said this is "part of increased spending to prevent homelessness".

He added: "Since 2010, this Government has delivered more than 200,000 affordable homes across England, with plans for more investment that will lead to the fastest rate of affordable house building for two decades.

"Rents have fallen every year since 2010 in real terms across the country, while house building levels are now at their highest since 2007. "

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