Homeless charity Shelter says its emergency helpline has been flooded with calls from more than 1,100 people in Greater Manchester in the last two months, with a new person calling every 37 minutes.
New data reveals that, since the pandemic disruptions began in March, more than 4,300 people from Greater Manchester have called the charity’s free national helpline.
And Shelter’s team of frontline advisers are warning of a deeply difficult winter ahead, as even more people face homelessness and hardship after losing income or jobs.
In a worrying sign of the times, one in three people calling Shelter for help are families with children, with more than 1,500 Greater Manchester families calling since March.
Of the families who’ve reached out for help during the pandemic, 66% were already homeless or at risk of homelessness, 27% needed urgent help to find temporary homeless accommodation, and 18% needed help to try and keep hold of their current home.
To ensure it can keep up with the demand for its services this winter and beyond, Shelter is urging the public to help by buying a festive lunch from M&S. A percentage of every sale from the festive lunch range goes directly towards the emergency helpline – and in the last year funded one in two of the calls answered.
“2020 has been an incredibly tough year,” said John Ryan, hub manager at Shelter Manchester.
“Those of us with a safe home to spend lockdown in can count ourselves lucky, when we know just how many families are living through this pandemic without one.
“Our emergency helpline is open 365 days a year because we don’t want anyone to face homelessness alone this winter or beyond.
“But as more people turn to us for help, we urgently need the public’s support to keep answering their calls.
“Something as simple as buying a festive sandwich from M&S could make all the difference to a family whose home is on the line.”
The charity’s frontline services data mirrors the results from its COVID monitor, run by YouGov.
This shows 22% of families in Greater Manchester are worried they will become homeless as a result of the pandemic, and 11% have already gone to the extreme of cutting back on food for themselves in a desperate bid to pay their rent or mortgage.
M&S food ambassador and TV presenter Emma Willis is supporting Shelter this year.
“I’m so grateful that I was able to stay safe in my home with my kids throughout this unpredictable year,” she said.
“But not all families have had that luxury – and the chaos of the pandemic means that more people are facing homelessness for the first time.
“Over a million families in England are worried they’ll become homeless as a result. So, pick up an M&S sandwich – and help Shelter pick up the phone for the families who need them.”