In the last three years 54% of state school teachers in the north west have worked at school with children who were homeless or became homeless, a major study by Shelter and YouGov reveals.
The economic impact of the pandemic has made housing inequalities worse and the desperate situation could soon deteriorate for the nearly 5,000 homeless children currently living in the north west.
Shelter, the UK’s leading housing and homelessness charity, warned homeless children must not be the invisible victims of this pandemic.
The charity’s findings show most teachers have first-hand knowledge of the damage to education caused by the housing emergency.
In the last three years, 85% of these teachers reported children going into school hungry and 90% reported children arriving at school in unwashed or dirty clothing.
In order to explore these statistics, Shelter also carried out anonymous interviews with eight teachers working in primary and secondary schools.
One secondary school teacher shared that one student living alone was eventually forced to drop out of school altogether due to the extreme negative impact on his mental health.
The teacher told Shelter: “He was in temporary accommodation on his own and just couldn’t handle anything.
“His situation was such a mental strain on him that he just couldn’t handle being at college anymore, so he dropped out in the end.
“He had such a horrible time of things and despite all the support that we possibly could provide, it’s just not enough from the student’s perspective.”
To understand the impact of the pandemic on the education of homeless children and children in bad housing, Shelter then conducted a follow-up survey with teachers in October as north west schools re-opened.
The results showed pandemic disruptions had set children without a suitable home even further back.
And 71% of teachers in the region say homeless children or those living in bad housing have had their education more negatively affected than children in suitable housing.
Shelter is urging the public to support its frontline services as they contend with a surge in demand triggered by the pandemic.
One of the families Shelter has supported this year is single dad Mark Holland, 34, and his six-year-old daughter Macy.
Mark and Macy, from Hertfordshire, became homeless in 2019 and were forced to sofa surf throughout the first national lockdown.
After the lockdown ended, they were placed into temporary accommodation by their local council.
It was so far from Macy’s school it required two long bus journeys, with fares costing £100 per week.
Mark told Shelter: “The temporary accommodation was awful.
“We didn’t have our own kitchen facilities, which made it harder for me to cook for her.
“But the worst part was being so far from her school. I worried about the longer journey making Macy tired.
“She is super smart and loves school. But the temporary accommodation meant that she didn’t have the space and quiet she needed to rest and recuperate.”
With Shelter’s support, Mark and Macy moved into their new permanent social home in November 2020.
Both are looking forward to spending their first Christmas in their own home.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Without a safe and secure home, a child’s life chances can be deeply disrupted.
“Without extra action the extra harm being done to homeless children as a result of the pandemic may never be undone.
“With the public’s support we will do all we can to make sure every child has a safe and secure home – this winter and beyond.”
The charity’s services are open all year round to provide advice and support to families facing homelessness, which included helping families to access a safe home.
To donate to Shelter’s urgent winter appeal visit www.shelter.org.uk/donate.