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Homelessness casts shadow over Christmas

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 23, 2013


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Analysis of house repossession figures for the West Country shows that 3,724 families were forced to leave their homes last year.

One out of every 179 households in the South West is now considered at risk of eviction or repossession, according to a study by the housing charity Shelter. The revelation comes after research earlier this month showed that more than 2,000 children in the six counties will be homeless on Christmas morning.

The charity has identified the areas in the region where people face the highest likelihood of losing their home, as part of its emergency fundraising appeal to help homeless children this Christmas.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "It is heartbreaking to see that so many people in the South West face spending Christmas with the threat of losing their home hanging over them. Times are tough, and these days it doesn't take much to tip a family into the spiral that leads to homelessness.

"We are urging anyone who can to donate to our Christmas appeal and make sure we can be there for every family facing homelessness, because no-one should be left to fight this battle on their own."

The research, based on recorded court proceedings then calculated based on population, found that Weymouth and Portland has the highest risk of repossession or eviction with as many as one in every 104 homes at risk.

The third worst local authority area was Gloucester, with 401 repossessions in the year to September – a risk of one in 126 – and the fourth worst area was Plymouth, where 848 families lost their homes in the year to September, a risk of one in 129.

This was followed by Bristol, in fifth with 1,357 repossessions, that is one in every 135; Cheltenham with 350, one in 146; Exeter, in ninth with 308 – one in 160; the Wiltshire unitary authority, with 1,158, a rate of one in 168; and Torbay, in 12th with 332, which is one in 178. The Forest of Dean saw 192 repossessions, a rate also of one in 178.

In Cornwall, during the 12-month period, 1,046 repossessions were made, producing a risk of one in 220.

Other repossession figures include: Sedgemoor, 269; Taunton Deane, 257; Tewkesbury 189; Cotswold, 186; Mendip, 226; South Somerset, 339; North Somerset, 423; South Gloucestershire, 490; West Dorset, 194; Bath and North East Somerset, 284; Stroud, 184; West Somerset, 60; East Dorset, 128; North Dorset, 144; North Devon, 190; East Devon, 277; Teignbridge, 252; South Hams, 152; Mid Devon, 132; West Devon. 85, Torridge, 102.

The Shelter helpline is already taking more than 470 calls each day. But with housing costs soaring and welfare cuts continuing to take their toll, the charity is bracing itself for a record number of calls this Christmas from families on the brink of homelessness.

The charity highlighted how people could slip into trouble, pointing to the case of a mother of a three-year-old who ran a successful company before the recession hit and work started to dry up.

The woman, who gave her name as Jo, declared herself bankrupt, her partner left her and, after struggling to keep up with the mortgage payments on her own, the house was repossessed.

She said: "I went from running my own successful business to not having enough money to pay the mortgage. I was so worried that my son and I would be left with nowhere to live, it was such a stressful time"

Anyone who wishes to support the appeal is asked to visit shelter.org.uk or text HOME to 87080 and donate £3 to answer a call for help.

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