Will loves to read but the 10-year-old rarely gets the chance in the cramped B&B room he has shared with his mum, dad and little brother Harry for the past three months.
Like all schoolboys he also loves to play but there is no space for that – or even to do his homework in peace.
He says: “Life in the B&B is horrible, it’s worse than being in a real-life horror film. There’s no room to do anything. Even if I’m reading my book, I’m still going to get annoyed by someone.
“I’ve been told off by someone for running in the small corridor. You can’t do much, you can’t play much.”
The family sleep in one room and share kitchen facilities with the rest of the B&B, in Ilford, East London.
Will adds: “Sometimes me and Harry fight for the one chair, because we both want to sit at the table. I find it really hard to do my homework.”
The brothers are among the soaring number of homeless children across Britain, increasing by one every eight minutes, according to charity Shelter.
Some 135,000 youngsters will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation, a report by the charity found.
Child homelessness is at its highest rate in 12 years, with 183 kids losing their homes each day last year.
And for the 5,683 families with children living in emergency B&Bs and hostels, conditions are often sub-standard with little privacy, security or space to cook, the report found.
Will’s family lost their rented home in a Section 21 no-fault eviction, which allows landlords to evict tenants without a reason when their fixed-term tenancy ends.
Their landlord wanted to sell and thought it would be easier without a family living in the property.
But with no time to save and increasingly unaffordable rents, they found themselves without enough cash for a deposit for a new rental home.
The ending of a private tenancy is the reason 22% of households in England became homeless or threatened with homelessness in the past year.
Will says: “We moved here in September and they said we were going to stay for six weeks.
“Then they told us we were going to stay for two more, then they told us it will be another week, then another one.”
Will adds: “I love to read my book at the end of the day but my brother Harry needs to go to bed and we need to turn off the lights, which means I can’t see the pages.
"It’s really annoying that I can’t go to sleep in the bed that we share, as I have school and sometimes I am really miserable because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.
"And Harry, he doesn’t like being woken up early when he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep. He sometimes falls asleep at school.”
The number of children living in temporary accommodation has soared by 51% in Britain in the past five years.
And in England, there are an additional 4,470 families with children who are homeless but have sourced their own temporary accommodation.
These families are not included in Shelter’s figures but are also officially without a home.
Shelter warned that at current rates a further 1,647 children will be made homeless between now and the General Election on December 12. This will grow to 4,026 by Christmas.
Chief executive Polly Neate says: “The fact 183 children become homeless every day is a scandalous figure and a reminder that political promises about tackling homelessness must be turned into action.
"Day in, day out we see the devastating impact the housing emergency is having on children.
“They are being uprooted from friends, living in cold, cramped B&Bs and going to bed at night scared by the sound of strangers outside.”
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey slammed Tory cuts to housing benefits and the lack of investment.
He says: “Rising homelessness is a direct result of decisions made by the Tories: slashing investment in new low-cost homes, refusing to help private renters and making huge cuts to housing benefit and homelessness services.
“A Labour Government will end rough sleeping within five years and fix the root causes of rising homelessness with the biggest council and social housing programme since the 1960s, stronger rights for renters and extra funding for homelessness services.”
Your vote can help to tackle this disgrace, by Darren Lewis
I still remember the times as a child when my dad struggled to find the cash-in-hand work that would keep us going.
On those occasions “dinner” would consist of improvised meals, scraped together with the very last contents of the cupboard or fridge.
Sometimes it would be even less than that.
We lived at a time when, even after the Race Relations Act of 1976, your CV didn’t matter if an employer wanted to give a job to someone who didn’t look like you.
Taking seconds at school dinner times was commonplace, as you didn’t know how big or small the evening meal would be at home.
Four decades on, it is a scandal that thousands of children continue to live this.
Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary, Britain’s Breadline Kids, proved a harrowing insight into the scale of the problem.
The sight of eight-year-old Courtney opening her fridge to find just an empty tomato ketchup bottle was heartbreaking. As was seeing her younger brother in bed with his coat on to keep warm.
Delays in the Universal Credit system meant their mum Charlotte had to wait over a month for money after fleeing abuse. And still the Government reckons all ordinary people want is to Get Brexit Done?
This is the politics we care about. Parents want to feed their kids without having to negotiate red tape. Girls Courtney’s age should be focused on school and Santa.
Our country is going backwards. We need to use our votes to affect change.
The Daily Mirror is raising funds for Action for Children, so it can buy Christmas gifts for some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and offer festive meals to hard-up families.
Action for Children says there are more than 120,000 kids living in temporary accommodation or hostels, with many under-10s without basic essentials such as fresh food or warm clothing.
So every penny you donate to our Give Kids a Cracking Christmas appeal will make a difference.
Action for Children is marking its 150th anniversary and the charity’s Julie Bentley said: “Your donation will help us support our most vulnerable children, not just at Christmas but every day.”
- Send a cheque payable to Action for Children to Daily Mirror Christmas Appeal, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AP
- Text MIRRTEN to 70175 to donate £10 to Action for Children, MIRRFIVE to 70175 to give £5 or MIRRTHREE to 70175 to donate £3. Action for Children will receive 100% of your donation.
- To donate but opt-out to all future communications, text MIRRTEN NO or MIRRFIVE NO or MIRRTHREE NO to 70175.
- By phone: To make a donation, call 0300 123 2112
- Online: Donate or buy a virtual gift online at www.iamsanta.org.uk/mirror
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