Sunderland families face losing homes as financial pressures mount

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MANY Wearsiders have begun the new year worrying about whether they will be able to keep a roof over their heads in 2014, according to a new report.

Figures from homeless charity Shelter reveal that one in 11 people in the North East fear they won’t be able to pay their rent at the end of this month.

Last month, the Echo revealed that 18 young people in Sunderland spent Christmas living in a hostel. Of those – aged between 16 and 24 – some had families to care for.

Now Shelter is warning that the ostrich effect, created as a result of feeling overwhelmed by money worries, could put homes in the region at risk if overdue rent or mortgage bills are put off until it is too late.

The findings show a worrying trend of people unable to face up to financial difficulties.

Nearly one-in-four said they have not opened post if they thought it was a bill or late payment reminder, and nearly one-in-five admitted to putting it in the bin without opening it.

Helpline adviser for Shelter, Liz Clare, said families at breaking point over financial strain is an ongoing problem.

“We’re now seeing a stream of cases of families who’ve been unable to cope with mounting rent,” she said.

“We all know how difficult it can be to face up to financial problems, and we often hear from people who’ve been avoiding urgent post, but the reality is that not confronting it means things can spiral out of control.

“Our message to anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage is that we’re on your side.

“Come to us for help early on for the best chance of keeping your home.”

With more than one in three people in the North East expecting to struggle or fall behind with payments in 2014, Shelter is urging anyone in the region worried about their housing costs to get help.

Research found that families are currently struggling the most, with 70 per cent of rent or mortgage payers with children struggling, or falling behind with their payments, compared to 63 per cent of the general population of rent or mortgage payers.

Caroline Berens and her husband both work, but are struggling to keep up with their rent.

“I go clammy just thinking about the bills,” she said.

“I do anything I can to avoid opening the post, as I’m scared it will be another overdue bill.

“We do all we can to make ends meet – we’ve even sold our wedding rings and my mother-in-law has helped us with the rent – but we’re really worried about keeping our home.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, says: “It’s a worrying sign of the times that so many of us are starting the new year worried about how they’ll pay their rent or mortgage in 2014.

“Despite recent discussion of an economic recovery, we know that a combination of high housing costs, wage freezes, and rising food and energy bills has created a nightmare scenario for many families that’s pushing them to breaking point.”

For advice and top tips to avoid rent or mortgage arrears, visit