What being a helpline adviser is really like
Our helpline is vital for anyone who needs emergency housing advice, 365 days a year. Sharon, one of our expert advisers answers your questions.
Q: Who calls the helpline?
Anyone and everyone; people from every walk of life and across all generations.
Q: What do they call about?
It can vary seasonally. For example, during the winter months we have a lot of calls about damp and mould, boiler problems and general disrepair in rented properties.
Changes in legislation and benefit caps can massively change people’s circumstances, and will always prompt additional calls.
Q: How do advisers help?
Clients often call the helpline when they are in a desperate housing situation and feel they have nowhere else to go. Some can be quite challenging because they feel frustrated and angry while others are extremely upset.
A memorable example...
One Friday, I received a call from a very distressed woman called Pauline who’d arrived home from holiday to find her locks had been changed.
This left her, her partner and two young children homeless. Pauline went to the council, but they told her no adviser was available to assess their case and to ‘come back on Monday’; she was beside herself.
I immediately tracked down the on-call housing officer and outlined the legal reasons to accommodate this family over the weekend rather than seeing them sleep on the streets. Temporary accommodation was found – and Pauline couldn’t thank me enough.’
My training has taught me to listen and wait before asking for the information I need to help them.
Q: What would happen if Shelter couldn’t be there?
It doesn’t bear thinking about…
If we didn’t have the helpline, I feel there would be a high number of vulnerable people without the housing support they need, and this could lead to catastrophic consequences.
Q: How can someone get housing advice?
There’s helpful information at shelter.org.uk/advice and in a housing emergency call our helpline on 0808 800 4444.
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