Children's experiences of homelessness in London: What I have seen by Connie Cullen, London Hub Manager, Shelter

Date Posted: 30 October 2018

In the last two weeks, these are some of the things I've signed off expenditure for from a small hardship fund we are lucky to have access to:

  1. Food, for children, teenagers and families who have fled violence, been illegally evicted, and on seeing us had not eaten that day and part of the previous day
  2. Hostel accommodation - the youngest child was a baby, and we got a special deal from a kindly hostel owner for a family who wanted a room of their own
  3. Toiletries: when you've been illegally evicted, you don't have anything except the clothes you left the house in, thinking you were coming back later
  4. Travel - when you're placed in emergency accommodation miles from where you are, you'll need funds to get to it.

We already had a teddy bear donated by a kind benefactor to our services, so could give the child something for comfort.

In these cases, the families or individuals we were helping, are all now safely accommodated whilst we work with partners on a long term plan.

For all, the sudden onset of a crisis left them destitute: the mum who's spent a week trying to find a home for her children after being illegally evicted, can't get to work so loses hours this week, and may even lose the job entirely as the boss doesn't see why she can't turn up. The teenager running away from violence at home, was living on benefits and these have stopped as she can't get to her local JobCentre.

These are the desperate stories, the crisis stories.

There are others: the older woman who's ill and can no longer work, and can't afford to pay the £150 week towards her rent arrears that he's being asked for. The working woman who got herself into and back out of debt, who can't persuade her housing association that they should stop court action against her to evict her. The family living in private rented accommodation whose rent increases from £300 to £330, and can't get the extra hours at a cleaning job to make up the difference. The mums and dads facing winter again without a coat so they can make sure their children are warm.

For these children, poverty affects every aspect of their lives: the child with excellent grades about to sit GCSEs, who, when fleeing a violent home, can't keep up with their revision and sees their grades slowly fall; the toddler struggling to walk as the one room she and her family are in isn't childproof. The child who can't stay awake at school because she's travelling an hour and a half a day each week to get there. The child who has to change schools mid-term as mum has to claim some housing benefit and can't find a letting agent in near home that will accept her…

All of this is avoidable. We need affordable, suitable homes, let at rents which someone working in a supermarket or at a cleaning job can pay; jobs which guarantee a living wage; benefits which don't stop when you're running for your life.

For anyone who needs help with housing or homelessness, we’re here to help: 0344 515 1540, and at locations across London.


Connie Cullen

London Hub Manager