Poverty crisis as cuts hit families

The Community Awareness Programme is seeing rising numbers of homeless and working poor people coming in for help after being hit by the recession.'Ernest Hibbert
The Community Awareness Programme is seeing rising numbers of homeless and working poor people coming in for help after being hit by the recession.'Ernest Hibbert
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TV adverts paint an idyllic picture of families enjoying gifts around the Christmas tree.

But the reality for many this year could not be bleaker.

Rising unemployment and government cuts have left families struggling to make ends meet.

And many are finding themselves homeless for the first time during the festive period.

Ernest Hibbert, who runs Wakefield homeless organisation the Community Awareness Programme (CAP), on Wood Street, said poverty and homelessness had reached crisis point.

Rising numbers of people are visiting CAP for food parcels, household goods and housing advice.

Mr Hibbert said: “We are averaging 56 people coming in every morning now. At the same time last year it was in the low 40s.”

Mr Hibbert said rising unemployment and cuts to benefits were hitting people from all walks of life.

He said: “We are starting to see dads who are coming in saying this time last year they had a home and a family.

“The traditional perception of homeless is people addicted to drink and drugs. That has always been wrong. But now we are seeing people much further up the social pecking order who are finding themselves in crisis through no fault of their own.”

The council received 463 applications for help with homelessness last year. Some 447 applications have been received so far this year and 228 people have been placed into temporary accommodation.

More than 22,000 were on the social housing waiting list in Wakefield at the last count.

Council figures show the income needed to afford a mid-price home in the district rose by 136 per cent to £36,000 in 2010. Private rents UK-wide have risen by £25 a month on average in the last year.

Mr Hibbert said many people without a home were sleeping on friends’ sofas and not included in official homelessness figures.

He added: “I think there are more sofa surfers than ever.”