Woman working for Shelter's helpline in Sheffield shaves her head in aid of the housing charity as she warns of the impact of rising prices

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A frontline Shelter worker in Sheffield has raised hundreds of pounds through a sponsored headshave in aid of the charity, warning of the precarious situation faced by many private renters as the cost of living crisis deepens.

University of Sheffield graduate, Olivia Bannerman, has proudly worked at Shelter’s national helpline in Sheffield as a telephone adviser since September last year, taking calls from people in crisis who might be homeless on the street, facing an unfair eviction, or trying to flee from harm or abuse.

The 22-year-old says that her role with the housing charity’s helpline, which gets around 1,000 calls every week, places her at the ‘forefront’ of what Shelter does and shows her that every ‘well spent’ penny is desperately needed.

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With that in mind, Olivia pledged to shave off her chin-length curly brown hair, featuring a bright pink fringe, and staff at the Gypsy Rose salon in Hagglers Corner took the clippers to Olivia’s locks on Friday, May 27.

After receiving a ‘phenomenal’ response to her initial target of £1,000, exceeding it within four days, Olivia increased her fundraising goal to £1,800 and has now raised an impressive £1,625.

“It’s been incredible. I think people fundamentally are wanting to support people, especially at the moment when the cost of living crisis is affecting so many, whether that’s people on benefits; people on lower incomes; middle incomes,” said Olivia.

She added: “I don’t believe anyone should have to suffer being homeless in the UK, nor should they have to deal with poor housing conditions. Therefore, I wanted to join the fight in not only trying to ensure everyone has access to a safe and secure home but also play a part in positive system change.”

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Olivia describes how she regularly speaks to people whose mental health is deteriorating as a result of their housing situation, and says staff at the helpline will speak to four or five people every week ‘breaking down’ in emotional distress.

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In addition to rising energy and food costs, Olivia says many private renters are also having to contend with ‘no-fault,’ or Section 21, eviction notices, informing tenants they have to leave their property within two months.

"With Section 21 notices, landlords don’t have to give tenants a reason for evicting them, and some are doing it because they want to get rid of their existing tenants because they want to hike up their rent,” said Olivia.

She added: “You speak to people and they’ve been searching for months and still can’t find anywhere they can afford...and if they start renting somewhere they can’t afford and begin to build up rent arrears, they’re technically homeless because their current situation is not sustainable.”

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Shelter’s helpline is open 365 days a year to answer calls from anyone struggling with a housing issue or homelessness, and Olivia says that anyone with housing concerns should call the helpline.

“Even if you think your situation is hopeless it’s always calling us because we can tell you what your rights are, can help to advoate for you, and might spot something you haven’t that could make a real difference to your situation,” Olivia said.

To donate to Olivia’s fundraiser please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Olivia-Bannerman