What's It Like To Be 12 Years Old And Homeless?

Joe Tidy, Sky News Reporter

The number of homeless children in Britain has risen to 100,000 - the highest level in seven years.

In the last year alone, 15,000 more children have been forced to live in temporary and often unsuitable accommodation as councils attempt to find permanent homes for struggling families.

The figures for England, Scotland and Wales are being highlighted by homelessness charity Shelter which has launched an urgent appeal for help and government action.

The charity says its advisers are struggling to cope with demand for help from the growing number of families battling to keep a roof over their heads.

It is extremely rare for homeless children to be living on the streets as councils prioritise their cases.

But the figures show the highest number of children since 2008 are living in temporary, and sometimes unsuitable, accommodation with no fixed contract.

Cleo Cook, 12, has been homeless for a year.

Her mother and baby brother Malachi were living with their grandparents until they had to move out abruptly and had nowhere to go and not enough money for accommodation.

Cleo says it has been hard living in temporary accommodation, especially whilst trying to study for exams. 

"It's quite stressful because you have to unpack and then pack and settle in and then move again," she said.

"You'll be somewhere for a while and you can't relax and be somewhere and say it's your home."

She added: "I don't like speaking about it to my friends ... sometimes it's quite embarrassing."

Cleo's single mother Francesca works at a university but is not able to earn enough to house her family.

"It was really hard because I thought I had done everything in my powers to be able to afford property within London," she told Sky News.

"I've done a degree, I've got a good job and having to stay in this one room with my two kids and have our own space, I felt like a failure.

"But it would have been impossible for me to afford something in London by myself."

Shelter says there are a number of factors responsible for the increase in homelessness children including a shortage of affordable homes, rising rents and welfare spending cuts.

Chief executive Campbell Robb said: "These families have done everything they can to keep a roof over their head but unfortunately they've been evicted or repossessed.

"What happens is the council then take them on in this terrible temporary accommodation and they have no idea when they're going to get out and be able to live somewhere permanent and affordable.

"The children don't know one day to the next and we're hearing of a lot of anxiety and upset."

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "One homeless child is one too many but time spent in temporary accommodation ensures no family is without a roof over their head.

"We have made over £1bn available since 2010, to prevent and tackle homelessness and support vulnerable households, and statutory homelessness acceptances are now less than half the 2003-04 peak.

"Our investment has helped prevent almost a million households from becoming homeless.

"Of course we recognise the need to build more homes - which is why over the next five years are committed to deliver 275,000 extra affordable homes - the fastest rate of delivery for 20 years."

:: To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060.