On Christmas Day 128,000 children will wake up homeless in Britain, the highest number in a decade, according to a leading housing charity.
The figure, which has jumped by two-thirds since 2011, was labelled a “national scandal” by Shelter chief executive Polly Neate.
Families shunted into temporary accommodation are rocked by “psychological turmoil” with children often suffering from feelings of anxiety, shame and fear, the charity said.
The Shelter report comes amid the first sustained increases in child and pensioner poverty for 20 years.
Almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners are living in poverty than four years ago, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Neate said: “It’s a national scandal that the number of homeless children in Britain has risen every year for the last decade.
“Many of us will spend Christmas day enjoying all of the festive traditions we cherish, but sadly it’ll be a different story for the children hidden away in cramped B&Bs or hostel rooms.”
Families placed into emergency B&Bs and hostels often live in a single room, with parents sharing the bed with children, the Shelter report found, adding that those placed into B&Bs stay beyond the legal six-week limit.
Several parents also said their child’s mental and physical health had declined since they became homeless, citing bed bug infestations, broken heating, and stress.
Shelter said: “Most of us are unaware of how homeless children live. Families rarely experience the most visible symptom of homelessness, having to sleep rough.
“They are often embarrassed to even let relatives or friends see where they are having to live.”
Neate added: “No child should have to spend Christmas without a home, let alone 128,000 children.”
An NSPCC spokesman said: “Shelter has exposed the devastating impact on children of losing a roof over their head.
“It’s frightening to think the anxiety felt by some children leads to them feeling ashamed, or even considering taking their own life.
“For any child struggling to cope in this situation, Childline is available, free and at any time of day or night, to help them talk through their worries.”