ONE IN SEVEN ADULTS, equivalent to more than six million people in England, are more worried about becoming homeless due to the pandemic, new research by Shelter reveals. With people’s incomes slashed and job losses mounting, the charity expects the pressure on its frontline services to grow.

Eleanor Wilson, a Shelter helpline adviser recruited in response to the pandemic, said: “People are frightened, they’re scared they might do the wrong thing, they don’t know their rights and they’re really worried they will lose their home. People can be quite distressed and don’t know where to turn. It can be emotional because you feel responsible for every caller.”

Shelter’s latest poll, carried out by YouGov, shows it is private renters who have fared the worst during the Coronavirus crisis. One in four private renting adults (27 per cent) now fear becoming homeless (2.2 million people).

Private renters are also almost twice as likely to feel depressed and anxious about their housing situation, compared with the general public (26 per cent). In fact, nearly half (47 per cent) of private renters say they are more depressed and anxious in light of the pandemic.

Shelter says these concerns are not unfounded, when a quarter of private renters (2 million people) have seen their income decrease in the last six months, and many are struggling to pay their rent. In just the last month:

  • 24 per cent of private renters have had to borrow money to pay their rent
  • 18 per cent have cut back on food or skipped meals to pay their rent
  • 12 per cent have cut back on heating their home to pay their rent

This worrying snapshot of people struggling to get by during the pandemic chimes with the charity’s frontline services data, which shows two-thirds (63 per cent) of calls answered by its emergency helpline in the last year were from people already homeless or at risk of homelessness.

To meet demand for its emergency services, Shelter has already taken on 26 new housing advisers and doubled the number of calls answered by its free helpline. In a bid to maintain this extra capacity and help more people during the months ahead, the charity has launched an urgent appeal for public support – Lives on the Line.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Through our helpline we have seen just how scared people are about their homes and their futures. People’s lives are literally on the line. They are desperately struggling, and the threat of homelessness is very real.

“At Shelter we are working hard to keep people safe in their homes. Thanks to the generous support of the public and our partners we have been able to answer double the number of calls, but we need to keep this up if we are going to weather the coming storm. To make sure we can always be on the other end of the line, we’re asking the public to support our appeal.”

Shelter helpline adviser, Eleanor Wilson, continued: “I started working at Shelter’s emergency helpline in September. One of the most surprising things is the sheer volume of people who are teetering on the edge of homelessness. There are now a lot more of us to answer the phone, but the amount of calls is just relentless.

“The helpline is so important. When people get through to us they’ve often called everyone else and they’re running out of options. When we are able to offer support, advice, and an action plan – it’s fantastic. I’ve got people off sleeping on the streets, kept people from being illegally evicted, and found last minute emergency accommodation for families facing homelessness that very night.”

Shaiso, from London, was working as a wedding planner and living in staff accommodation at the hotel where she worked. When she was made redundant in November she lost her home too. Shaiso got support and advice from Shelter and is now living in temporary accommodation.

She said: “When the pandemic hit everything came crashing down. I lost my job as a wedding planner in November and my housing along with it, I was getting bounced from council to council and was starting to get really worried I was going to end up on the streets. A friend told me to call Shelter’s helpline to see if they could help.

“The helpline adviser I spoke to was so kind and they were able to link me up with a local case worker, called Lily, who really helped me. Lily called me all the time and told me about all her conversations with the council. Literally within a day, Lily had found somewhere for me to go. If it wasn’t for Shelter, I don’t know where I’d be now.

“When this whole situation unfolded, my mental health really hit a low. Speaking with Lily has helped me to feel more positive and to start working on my depression. In the future I’m really hoping to get back into a stable home that I can call my own.”

* Access housing advice here.

* Lives on the  Line appeal is here.

* Source: Shelter England