More than 130,000 children will not have a “permanent home” on Christmas Day, the homeless charity Shelter has found.
The new report found that the number of homeless children has increased 59% in the last five years, with 3,000 more children becoming homeless in the last year alone.
Over 9,000 will be in a hostel or BnB over Christmas, where one family can be sharing a single room, and sharing bathrooms and kitchens with other residents.
Angel, a nine-year-old girl from Hackney is one of these children who will be without a home this Christmas.
She described staying at the hostel as “scary” and that it did not "feel safe”.
Angel, aged 9 from Hackney has been living in a hostel with her family for two years. Video: Shelter
"I didn’t feel safe at all because there were other people living there...they would smoke a lot and it wasn’t good,” she said.
“I felt pretty scared because you never knew what would happen next there.”
She added that there were often rats in her family’s hostel.
“There were mice and there were rats,” she said. “You see how they’re really sneaky, they come through our door and then they’re just running around everywhere in the night so they can find food where they can.”
'No joy in this house'
Westminster is the worst-affected local authority, where one in 11 children is homeless.
People in Kensington and Chelsea have also suffered as the borough has the highest house prices in the country. One in 12 children in the area are without a home.
Outside of London, the number of homeless children has soared with the North West seeing a rise of 175% in the last five years alone.
Teachers have also reported the homelessness impacting the children’s emotional and mental health, as they struggle with stress, anxiety and emotional trauma, the report found.
Samira, aged 34 from Islington, is a parent who has been without a home for the last six and a half years.
“As a parent I should be able to protect my children and keep them safe... but I can't. I feel hopeless. There is no joy or happiness in this house.
“All is frustration, arguments and pain. We are just so tired. For the last six-and-a-half years we have tried to move to a suitable property, without any success.”
Homeless children have also been found to struggle with maintain their school uniform and possessions, due to limited access to bathrooms or laundry facilities.
This was the reality for Michelle, a 41-year-old from Ealing. Her children struggled to do their homework without internet access.
“It’s not a way of living for kids. They can’t do their homework as there’s no internet unless they go to the library,” she said.
“But you’re out of borough so they don’t know where anything is. It’s horrible, an absolute nightmare and not something you’d want your worst enemy to go through.”
'The grim reality'
Greg Beales, the Director at Shelter said the housing crisis has led to homelessness being “the grim reality for many”.
“No child should be homeless. But for the generation growing up in the housing crisis, this is the grim reality for many,” he said.
“The number of children hidden away in hostels and BnBs is enough to make anyone’s heart sink. These are not places for children. We hear about cold, damp – even rats.
“Young children are sharing beds with multiple family members, trying to play in dirty public corridors, and having to leave their block in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
“Over the last five years, hundreds of thousands of children have known what it’s like to be homeless. The impact on these young people cannot be overstated.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. If we act now, we can change tomorrow to make sure every child has somewhere they can call home.”