THE number of people in the East of England contacting a homeless charity’s helpline has more than doubled in the last three years.

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Housing charity Shelter has seen what it says is a “dramatic” increase in demand for help from people at risk of homelessness across the region.

The Shelter helpline was contacted by 860 people between October 2009 and September 2010 but between October 2011 and September 2012 that number had risen to 1,775 – an increase of 106%.

People using the service are either homeless or at risk of losing their home for a range of reasons. Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “These figures are a shocking reminder of the daily battle so many families in the East of England are facing just to keep a roof over their head. Through our helpline Shelter offers vital help to people who have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to turn.

“Our advisers give them the advice and support they need to get back on their feet. The Shelter helpline is an all-year-round line staffed by more than 50 specialists and part-funded by Marks & Spencer.”

The charity says the region’s number of families with children at risk of homelessness and have been assisted by the helpline has seen a similar increase of 112% over the same three-year period in the region.

Shelter’s Christmas appeal has warned that 3,600 children across the region would wake up homeless this Christmas, living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts or hostels.

The charity is concerned that rising rents, increasing living costs and static wages mean more and more families will struggle to keep up with their housing payments and could be at risk of losing their home.

Shelter’s free, national telephone advice line is open from Mondays to Fridays from 8am-8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 8am-5pm. The number is 0808 800 4444.

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