The number of homeless families living in bed and breakfast style accommodation has risen by more than 50% in the last year, according to government figures.
More than 2,000 families with children are housed in B&Bs, with many of them facing spending Christmas in single rooms with no access to catering facilities.
The 51% rise has been labelled "extremely worrying" by housing charity Shelter.
Chief Executive Campbell Robb said "it’s difficult enough to imagine the pain of losing your home, let alone the horror of squeezing your family and belongings into one room without privacy or decent facilities."
The charity say conditions in temporary accommodation can be cramped with no cots for young children and one bathroom between 14 rooms.
Emma, 26, her husband and her two-year-old son lived in a bed and breakfast for 16 weeks after being made homeless, an experience she calls a "nightmare."
"The room had one radiator which didn’t work so we had to borrow a fan heater from my mum. There wasn’t enough room to keep the travel cot up in the day so we had to put our son in the single bed and wedge pillows around him to stop him from falling off when he had his kip in the day," she said.
“The kitchen was open from 8am to 8pm but my husband was working shifts as a warehouseman that started at 6am so he couldn’t eat in the B&B. There was one bathroom with a shower between 14 rooms so we all had to travel to my mum’s house to wash."
According to Shelter, the number of families with children who are at risk of homelessness has risen by 92% in the last three years.
The figures also show the number of homeless families living in temporary bed and breakfast style accommodation for more than six weeks, the legal limit, has risen from 310 to 880 since September 2011.
Overall, the number of households classed as homeless rose by more than 10% compared with last year.
Housing Minister Mark Prisk said: "The government is working hard so that we don't return to the bad old days when the rate of homelessness was twice what it is today. That's why we have strengthened the safety net for families; are expanding the private sector and why we're building 170,000 more affordable homes."
Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said the rise in those living in temporary accommodation in the run up to Christmas was tragic.
"It is an absolute tragedy that in the weeks before Christmas so many families will be without a permanent roof over their head."