Homeless at Christmas – the sad tale of Sunderland’s destitute young people

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SCORES of homeless youngsters across Wearside are facing a bleak Christmas, new figures reveal.

Statistics from homelessness charity Centrepoint show that at least 18 young people in the city will spend the festive period living in a hostel. Of those 18 – aged between 16 and 24 – some may have families to care for.

The figures also show that between 2012 and 2013, 763 young people in Sunderland were rehoused after declaring themselves homeless to the city council.

Centrepoint public affairs manager Paul Noblet said the charity, which runs a hostel in Dundas Street, Monkwearmouth, is working to house an increasing number of youths in Sunderland.

“We work all year round to support young people when they become homeless,” he said.

“Both in Sunderland and across the North East we are seeing increasing numbers of families and young people at risk of homelessness who are finding themselves increasingly unable to keep a roof over their heads due to rising rents and high unemployment.”

Meanwhile, Shelter also reported that 166 children in the North East will wake up on Christmas morning in temporary accommodation.

The housing and homelessness charity interviewed 25 families who face “desperate living conditions.”

A report found that the majority are housed in just one room and forced to eat on the floor due to limited space, while others have to share a bathroom with strangers. The charity said most feel unsafe in their accommodation.

People also reported incidents such as drug use, and threats of violence which have been seen by children.

The statistics show that shockingly, there are 85,000 children enduring such conditions.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said the figures are an “absolute disgrace.”

“Sadly the constant pressure of soaring living costs combined with cuts to the housing safety net means that many will face an ongoing struggle to stay in their homes,” he said.

“We’ll be there to make sure families get the support they need to get back on their feet, but we need to see the Government rebuild our shredded safety net so it’s there to catch families who fall on hard times.”

Wearside TV architect George Clarke is an ambassador for Shelter.

“Coming from Sunderland myself, it’s heartbreaking to hear that so many families, including those from my hometown, will face the reality of waking up homeless on Christmas morning,” he said.

“While most of us will rightly be enjoying the holidays at home with our loved ones, Shelter helpline staff will be taking calls from families battling to keep a roof over their heads, or eating Christmas dinner sitting on the floor of a cramped hostel.”

Coun Graeme Miller, responsible for health, housing and adult services at Sunderland City Council, added: “Homelessness is a terrible situation for anyone to find themselves in but even more so at Christmas time.

“As a council we have tried over a number of years to prevent homelessness wherever possible by the commissioning of key services such as is the Centrepoint facility, which delivers a crucial service in the city by helping vulnerable young homeless people gain the support that they need.”

Anyone who may be at risk of homelessness can visit the council’s website at www.sunderland.gov.uk/housingadvice or tel: 520 5551.‬