More than 75,000 children in Britain will wake up on Christmas Day without a home, warns the housing and homelessness charity Shelter.
The charity describes this as the equivalent to two children in every primary school in Britain, or enough children to fill 333 primary schools.
Shelter is highlighting the figures to raise awareness of the increasing numbers of homeless families in Britain this Christmas and is particularly concerned about the number of families forced to live in bed and breakfast accomodation,which has increased by 57 per cent in the last 12 months.
This can mean parents and children living together in one room, with limited cooking or laundry facilities in conditions that are often appalling. This year, more than 3,000 children will spend Christmas Day living in this way, says Shelter
In December 2011, Shelter helped more than 1,000 people facing homelessness during the festive period. This Christmas, the number of people with nowhere else to turn is expected to be even higher.
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s Chief Executive, said: "It’s easy to think of homelessness as single people sleeping rough. The rising numbers of families who lose their home through no fault of their own often aren’t considered. For people with children, ’sofa surfing’ with friends just isn’t a realistic option."
The main triggers for homelessness include relationship breakdowns, job losses and landlords ending rental tenancies.
Mr Robb continued: "No child should be homeless at Christmas. Every December, Shelter’s helpline and advice centres deal with thousands of people at risk of losing their home. We need everyone’s support in the coming months to prevent families becoming homeless; and to help them find a new home if they do."
A spokesperson from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "This country has one of the strongest homelessness safety nets in the world and the bigger picture is that homelessness is actually lower than for 28 of the last 30 years.
"But there is always more that can be done. That's why we have recently set out a cross-Government approach to ensuring that anyone at risk of homelessness gets help at the earliest possible stage to prevent them from losing their home.
"The Government is also investing £400 million in homelessness prevention over four years, and last year provided an additional £70 million."
However, new figures show the number of homeless households in England has risen by a quarter in the last three years.
Some 50,290 families and individuals were classed as homeless and in need of emergency accommodation in 2011/12, compared with 40,020 in 2009/10 - an increase of more than 25 per cent.
But despite the rise in the number of cases, spending on tackling homelessness fell from £213.7 million to £199.8 million between 2009/10 and 2010/11, data experts SSentif said.