Charity chiefs are today calling for urgent action to tackle the "housing emergency" blamed for causing a rise of hidden homelessness in the North East – many of them children. 

In County Durham there are an estimated 241 homeless people this year - of those, 239 live in temporary accommodation and 93 are children.

Two of the homeless population in the area are sleeping rough.

Housing charity Shelter's research shows the number of homeless people across England rose by 14 per cent in the last year.

In Darlington, there are an estimated 59 homeless people and all of them live in temporary accommodation.  Of those 28 of them are children.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Homelessness is on nobody’s Christmas list, but 309,000 people will spend this time of year in a tiny hostel room or freezing in a doorway."

Stephen, 62, went from being a postman in Middlesbrough to homeless after a family dispute.

He spent weeks sleeping inside his car and didn't know where to turn.

Fortunately, he was eventually picked up by Middlesbrough's rough-sleepers crisis team after six months in his car.

Homelessness can happen to anyone. But many are not as lucky as Stephen and are still stuck on the streets.

Shelter's research reveals that there are 524 homeless people in North Yorkshire. They are all living in temporary accommodation and 129 of them are children.

Ms Neate blamed the housing emergency on "chronic underinvestment" in social homes, with people unable to afford rising rents.

She added: "It is appalling that the Government has allowed thousands of families to be packed into damp and dirty B&Bs and hostel rooms, which are traumatising children and making people desperately ill.

"Until the Government takes this emergency seriously, our frontline services will do everything they can to help people keep or find a safe home this winter.

"It is only with the public’s support we can continue to provide vital advice and support and fight for the solutions people want and need to end homelessness."

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it is spending £2 billion on tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.

A DLUHC spokesperson said temporary accommodation is "an important way of making sure no family is without a roof over their head", but councils must ensure it is temporary and suitable for families' needs.

Funding to address homelessness includes £1 billion given to councils to financially support people moving out of temporary accommodation.

"Through our Rough Sleeping Strategy, we will continue to work to end rough sleeping completely," a spokesperson added.

Peter Gibson, Conservative MP for Darlington, said: "I understand the concern people feel towards tackling the issue of homelessness, particularly at this time of year.

"The Government has been working through its Homelessness Strategy backed with £2bn pounds of investment.

"Whether it’s Homelessness prevention grants to Local Authorities, Op Fortitude focused on Veterans, the Youth Employment Programme indeed the work done to end Friday releases from Prison there is a lot of work going into tackling many of the causes of this complex issue. 

"Here in Darlington I’ve seen the incredible work going into this issue with key agencies like the Council, 700 Club, social services, housing and addiction organisations to keep a laser focus on this issue. 

"A related issue in our community is one of begging which is also receiving focus to ensure those people we see begging are accessing the services available to support them and I would ask that everyone with concerns takes a look at the following way to report it."

To learn more about reporting begging and anyone sleeping rough in Darlington, click here.

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, described the situation as a 'shocking state of affairs'.

He said: "It’s a national scandal and a tragedy that one of the wealthiest countries on the planet is failing the hundreds of thousands of people recorded as homeless, including many children.

"Thirteen years of chronic under funding of services and a failure to tackle housing needs by successive Conservative Governments has resulted in this crisis.

"Instead of more social housing, housebuilding is set to collapse.

"Instead of banning no-fault evictions, thousands of families are at risk of or have experienced homelessness.

"The Tories have failed people and pushed them into poor, temporary accommodation or worse – rough sleeping.

"This is a shocking state of affairs and it should shame this government."

A Darlington Council spokesperson said: “Since 2020, Darlington has seen unprecedented levels of homeless applications (over 1,650 between Sept 2022 and Aug 2023) resulting in increased times for homeless people in temporary accommodation.

"The total number of nights in temporary accommodation has also increased. This is largely due to a continued increased number of people requiring emergency accommodation.

"The lifting of the ban on section 21 (“no fault”) evictions from June 2021 continues to create an increase in homelessness and requests for housing advice.

"It is important to highlight that the average length of stay for each person has decreased from 18 days in 2022 to 15 days in 2023 showing the excellent work our housing options team is doing to find settled accommodation for people.

“We are looking to increase the number of social homes in Darlington and have an active council house building programme as well.”

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A Durham County Council spokesperson said: “We actively support those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Although numbers sleeping rough in County Durham are relatively low we take every case seriously and provide intensive support.

“We have just completed consultation on draft strategies to reduce homelessness and improve housing in the county and are currently in the process of acquiring additional properties to add to our stock of temporary accommodation.

"We have recently bid for £3m from the government which would provide three years of funding for specialist homeless service provision with an additional 32 new bed spaces.

"We work through the County Durham Housing Partnership with all housing providers to support those who are most vulnerable and in need of social housing.

“We also encourage people to let us know if they see anyone sleeping rough so we can ensure they are offered appropriate support.”

We have contacted North Yorkshire County Council for comment.