AS the thorny issue of homelessness rumbles on, an increasing number of people who find themselves without a roof over their heads are working families with children.

With the Homeless Reduction Bill being voted through to the next stage of parliament last month, however, perhaps there could be light at the end of the tunnel for some.

A 38-year-old mum-of-three, from Rayleigh, is hoping she will be one of then. Fiona, as she has chosen to be called to protect her children’s identity, has been staying in emergency accommodation in Southend with her three sons - aged five, 13 and 15 - for the past 11 weeks.

She told the Echo she can’t cotemplate the thought of still being crammed into one hotel room at Christmas.

Fiona was up-to-date with her £875-a-month rent when she was forced to leave her two-bedroom flat in August because the landlord wanted to sell the property.

She said: “Not being placed in the borough is causing us great distress, especially my eldest son as it is an important year for him with his GCSE’s. He stays late after school to do his homework as there’s nowhere for him to study in the hotel.

“My middle son is about to choose his options and I’m terrified about what this disruption is doing to them.

Fiona has been in the same office job for 15 years, but being based in Chigwell two days a week makes childcare a struggle.

She explained: “My youngest goes to his dad after school but the older boys are left to wander around Rayleigh alone as they are not allowed back at the emergency accommodation unattended. I don’t get back into Rayleigh until 7pm and now it’s getting dark at 4.30pm it’s not ideal.

“Another problem is the kitchen at the hotel closes at 7pm and opens at 7am, which is no help to me when I come home from work.

“I can’t cook dinner or wash the school uniforms. I have to do all the washing for the week on Monday when I have access to a machine.

“The boys can’t go out with their friends in the evening or at weekends or have people over. None of us has any privacy.

“I was supposed to go back to work full-time in September but it would have made my situation worse for the boys, although I would have been better off financially, so it’s a vicious circle.”

Finding another property to rent is not as easy as it sounds, with noone to act as a guarantor now her parents have retired.

They live outside the area, so moving in with them would mean uprooting the children.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill will place the duty on individual councils to do more to prevent families from being evicted. The Government also announced a £40 million programme to tackle homelessness.

While housing officials have been supportive, Fiona admits she feels helpless some days.

“Before we were placed in emergency accommodation, there was a week when we literally had nowhere to go. I had to split the boys up. The youngest was with his dad and the older two were with friends. I slept on a friend’s sofa,” she said.

Breaking down in tears, she added: “I just want to have security for my sons. If I ever get it back it’s something I will never take for granted again.

Fiona’s eldest son will turn 16 next week, but there will be little room for celebration.

She added: “We’ll do what we can, but in one room it’s not easy.”