Charity Helpline Receives A Call For Help Every Three MinutesHousing and homelessness charity Shelter is appealing for help to fund its free helpline after seeing a surge in demand from the South East, with over 70,000 calls received in the past year alone.

In a sign of the deepening housing crisis, the number of calls to the charity’s helpline from the South East – which is part-funded by M&S – has increased by 12% with a call now received every three minutes. Worryingly, nearly one in four cases in the South East dealt with by the Shelter helpline in the past year were people who were homeless or within 28 days of losing their home.

Fifty years since Shelter was first founded, more people are turning to the charity desperate for help. Recent analysis by the charity revealed that over 8,900 children in the South East will wake up homeless on Christmas morning – the highest level recorded since 2007. That’s why Shelter is calling on the public to help support its frontline advisers meet the demand.

5% of every sale from M&S’s ‘Food On The Move’ festive range goes directly towards the helpline and funds one in five of the calls it answers. Since the partnership began in 2005, the money raised has helped thousands of families to find and keep a home. Buying a festive lunch from M&S is an easy way to support Shelter this Christmas and will make a real difference to struggling families across the country.

Nadeem Khan, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: “Every day at Shelter we speak to people faced with losing their home but when a parent calls us, desperate to keep a roof over their child’s head, nothing is more heart-breaking.

“Our team of expert advisers work 365 days a year to make sure that no-one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own. If it wasn’t for the money raised by M&S customers, thousands of calls for help from people in the South East would go unanswered.

“That’s why we’re calling on people in the South East to buy their lunch from M&S’s festive ‘food on the move’ range to help raise hundreds of thousands of pounds and together, be there for people who need us. Something as simple as buying a sandwich this Christmas really could be the difference between a family losing their home and keeping it.”

Mike Barry, Director of Plan A at M&S, said: “This year marks Shelter’s 50th anniversary, but the surge in calls to the helpline, makes it clear that Shelter is as needed now as at any time in its long history. And that’s exactly why our partnership with the charity remains hugely important to M&S and to our customers.”

Case study: Kimberley and her husband Mark live in Buckinghamshire with their two young children. Kimberley was heavily pregnant with her youngest when they became homeless after losing their rented home and spent last Christmas in a hostel. Thanks to the support Kimberley received from the Shelter helpline, they’re looking forward to spending this Christmas in their own home.

“We were living in a privately rented flat until our landlord told us they were selling up. We tried really hard to find a new place to rent but we couldn’t. When I realised my family were going to become homeless, I contacted Shelter straight away and spoke to them at every stage. The eviction process is so long and confusing that you really need that advice.

“A couple of days before the bailiffs arrived last December, the council moved us to a hostel – a tiny space for all of us. The experience of being homeless was soul-destroying. I was worried we would end up with nowhere at all. But Shelter help people get confidence. Every time I called, the advisers helped me with the next step. It was absolutely invaluable.

“Then in September, we were told we could move into a flat, which would be our permanent home. Thanks to Shelter, we’re looking forward to our first Christmas in our new home.”

Polly has almost 20 years in the media industry. As Editor of Andover and Villages, she strives to bring the latest and greatest news with a minutes notice. Polly can be contacted via editor@andoverandvillages.co.uk or alternatively called at