Housing and homelessness charity Shelter is urgently appealing for support for its helpline, after receiving over 35,000 calls from the West Midlands in the last year alone – equivalent to 96 calls from the region every single day. In the last year, the number of calls to the charity’s free helpline from the West Midlands, which is part-funded by Marks & Spencer, has increased by 5,510. With the helpline struggling to meet demand, this includes many people ringing multiple times desperate to get through.

Shockingly, 1 in 5 of the calls answered came from people on the brink of homelessness who faced losing their home within a month.

This comes in the wake of previous analysis by Shelter, which revealed that over 2,400 children in the West Midlands will be homeless this Christmas day.

As the shortage of affordable homes continues to take its toll and demand for the charity’s services increases, Shelter is calling on the public to help them to be there for everyone who needs them this Christmas. 

This year, the tenth anniversary of the partnership with Shelter, M&S will again donate 5% of every sale of its Christmas ‘Food on the Move’ range directly to Shelter’s helpline.

Nadeem Khan, a helpline adviser for Shelter, said: “Every day I speak to people who face losing something as important as the roof over their family’s heads. Hearing the worry in a parent’s voice doesn’t get any easier, and sadly more and more people are coming to us every day, desperate for support.

“Without the money raised by Marks and Spencer’s M&S customers, thousands of calls for help would go unanswered. It’s heart-breaking to imagine someone facing homelessness with nowhere to turn, but the ‘Food on the Move’ range means that something as simple as buying lunch can help us to be there for everyone who needs us.”

Mike Barry, Director of Plan A at M&S, said: “Our partnership with Shelter is hugely important to us, and we proud to play our part in supporting the fantastic work that the charity does. This year has particular significance, with it being a decade since our first fundraising campaign for Shelter, and the funds raised will clearly be as important as ever.

“At this time of year in particular, Shelter’s work and M&S’s support is vital. With many donations to the Shelter helpline coming through our Food on the Move range and coffee sales, every time a customer comes into store for lunch they are helping to ensure no-one has to fight bad housing or homelessness alone this Christmas.”

Case Study: Michelle and Kevin live with their 4 children. When they were threatened with eviction, a call to Shelter helped the family to stay in their home:

“When my husband was forced to go self-employed, we lost £200 a week and couldn’t manage any more. We cut back on everything and were paying as much as we could, but got into rent arrears.  The landlord phoned to tell us we were going to be evicted. I was so upset – we’d been in the house for eleven years.

“I rang Shelter in tears and spoke to an adviser, who was really supportive straightaway. I was still scared and worried but I did feel, for the first time, that there might be light at the end of the tunnel.  It was such a relief. Shelter helped us to remain in our home on a new payment plan for the arrears.

“It makes me so emotional. If it wasn’t for Shelter there’s no way we’d be in our home. We had three weeks of pure hell trying to deal with the situation and it was so scary, especially for the kids. We didn’t want to lose our home and thanks to Shelter we’re still here.”

M&S has been funding the Shelter helpline for a decade, paying for one in six of the calls that they answer. The company also provides funding for the charity’s new online ‘Live Chat’ advice service, which has already responded to over 3,000 queries from those struggling with housing issues in just a few months.