HUNDREDS of impoverished families struggling to survive are facing waking up on Christmas morning homeless, The News can reveal.
The crisis has been branded a ‘tragedy’ by bosses of homeless charity Shelter, who said spiralling rent, cuts to the welfare system and a lack of affordable housing were to blame.
And worried councillors and campaigners in the area warn the situation will only get worse, with newly-imposed changes to the benefits system set to leave scores of desperate families thousands of pounds worse off.
Now The News is calling for readers to help by backing our Show Them You Care This Christmas campaign.
The effort is calling on people across the Portsmouth area to donate items to help the area’s most vulnerable people – and the charities supporting them – using one of the simple options explained in the panel on the right.
Backing the bid, Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: ‘Decades in the making, this is the tragic result of a nation struggling under the weight of sky-high rents, a lack of affordable homes, and cuts to welfare support.
For the sake of future generations we must pull together to end this crisis, and refuse to rest until every child has a place to call homeCampbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter
‘We all face the consequences when so many grow up without a place to call home. It breaks up communities and wreaks havoc on family life.
‘For the sake of future generations we must pull together to end this crisis, and refuse to rest until every child has a place to call home.’
In Portsmouth the number of people living rough has more than doubled over the past year, with 37 people sleeping on the street. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, with hundreds of people living without a home.
Figures from Portsmouth City Council show 85 people registered as ‘hidden homeless’ – those who are of no abode or sofa surfing. Meanwhile the number of people in supported housing placements for the homeless stands at 208, with a further 33 awaiting placement.
Elsewhere, Gosport was this month named as one of the country’s homelessness hotspots by the charity, with one in 200 people living homeless.
A total of 70 households were being supported by Gosport Borough Council, with Shelter claiming that 199 people were without a permanent home, while 415 were in temporary accommodation.
In Havant, there are eight people living rough, with Shelter estimating there are 69 homeless people in the area. Havant Borough Council added between April and October it had prevented 550 people from becoming homeless.
And in Fareham, 229 people were homeless, with six living on the streets permanently, while in Chichester 120 were without a home with 17 sleeping rough each night.
Housing bosses have said the councils are doing everything they can to help vulnerable residents.
Portsmouth has more than 200 housing units for homeless people, with extra emergency beds now being made available for rough sleepers during the colder winter months.
The council’s housing boss Cllr Steve Wemyss added the authority’s housing options service was supporting scores of people with housing, mental health or substance abuse problems. But he said it was problem that could affect anyone, saying: ‘Many factors can contribute to someone ending up in such an awful situation, including the end of a relationship, domestic abuse, physical and mental health problems, or leaving a care institution.
‘It’s important we treat homeless people with compassion and respect, that we see homelessness itself as a problem, and not the homeless.’
For those in need of help in Portsmouth, call (023) 9288 2689 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; in Gosport, call (023) 9254 5476; Havant residents can ring (023) 9244 6379; For help in Fareham dial 01329 236100.