PEOPLE in the South-West are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage but hiding their problem by taking out risky loans or saying they would keep it secret from family and friends, according to housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

New research commissioned by the charity found that nearly one in four rent or mortgage payers in the South-West have borrowed money to cover their housing costs.

The YouGov survey of 4,000 adults found that 24% of people in the South-West would feel too ashamed to ask for help if they could not pay their rent or mortgage, while 37% would not admit if they were struggling with their housing costs to family or friends.

In a sign of the tough financial climate, the number of people Shelter helped last year because they could not pay their rent or mortgage rose by almost a third.

But the charity is warning that for every person turning to it for help, many will keep their rent or mortgage problems hidden.

Liz Clare, a helpline adviser for Shelter said: “These days, we could all find ourselves at risk of losing our home. Falling behind with the rent or mortgage can happen to any of us and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Anyone at the school gates, in the supermarket or at work could be silently struggling.

“Times are tough and we often hear from people who’ve reached crisis point because they haven’t felt able to ask for help earlier.

Making the first step to ask for help is difficult but advice from an expert early on can make the difference between losing your home and keeping it”

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “We’re now hearing from record numbers of families up and down the country who are desperately struggling to keep the roof over their heads.

But the truth is, we’re more worried about the people we don’t see.

“Our message today is don’t keep your worries to yourself – Shelter’s expert advisers can be the difference between keeping your home and losing it.”