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A Rosie Murray-West meets Roger Harding, Shelter's director of communications, and learns that homelessness can affect anyone

Roger Harding, Shelter's director of communications, policy and campaigns, has his own reasons for being angry about the number of children who will wake up homeless on Christmas morning.

'When my father was terminally ill, there was a council house found for my family - my mum and me and my sister,' he explains. 'Nowadays we would have found ourselves at the bottom of the private rental market, struggling with rising rents.'

Harding's employer, founded in the mid 1960s as a campaigning organisation, has recently launched a new campaign highlighting how fragile many people's housing security is in this time of financial austerity.

According to the charity, 80,000 children will wake up homeless on Christmas morning. 'Even if it was just a small number of families, that would be terrible, but it isn't a small number,' he explains. 'We need to get this message across this year.'

The campaign launched with a haunting black-and-white poster of a girl in pyjamas and the slogan One homeless child at Christmas is a tragedy. 80,000 of them is a disgrace.

Christmas, Harding says, is a really important time for the charity to raise awareness of housing problems in Britain. 'There is such a strong emotional pull attached to homes at Christmas. It is about a nice warm home, with good food and a family. That's why it is particularly stark in this period that some families will be spending it in a B&B - using shared lavatories and kitchen facilities.'

He says that family circumstances while he was growing up ensured that he is 'passionate' about Shelter's mission not to stop campaigning until everyone has a home. It's clear from talking to him that his own personal mission is to help the public to believe that the child in pyjamas on the Shelter poster not only could easily have been him, but could be a relative of any one of us.

'It is important to me that people realise that housing difficulties are not something that happens to other people. We need to be saying This could happen to my family and my friends. It is often the smallest thing that tips people into housing difficulty - we really are a knife edge nation.'

The 31 year old heads a team of 65 people getting that message across this Christmas. That might seem like a lot, but this team covers everything from arranging media interviews to putting up online housing advice for people who are in trouble.

'We've moved away from having our teams in separate divisions to implementing our strategic plans across the department,' he explains. 'So there isn't a specific strategy for the media team - we all feed in to the same one. I've been quite fortunate that the organisation has a quite specific strategy on what it wants to see happen over three years. Organisations mostly have strategies that live on a shelf, but this genuinely filters down to everything we do.'

For the public, Shelter's role in the charitable sector can be confusing. Despite its name, it doesn't provide traditional homelessness shelters, not even at Christmas. Instead, it offers advice, information and advocacy to those who are facing homelessness, as well as campaigning at a political level to raise awareness of housing issues.

'It's not about doing charity to other people,' Harding says. 'We're there to be transformative - to ensure that no-one has to fight homelessness on their own. One of our challenges is to ensure that we balance short-term wins and long-term transformative campaigns.'

The communication team faces various challenges. When they talk about homelessness, Harding says, they need to get across that they are available to help people with advice and advocacy, at the same time as highlighting the housing problems that are increasingly prevalent across the nation.

They do this by focusing both on headline statistics and stories, with the latest campaign using case studies highlighting the reality of a Christmas spent in temporary accommodation. 'We've interviewed about 25 families,' Harding explains. 'When we launched the campaign we got coverage on BBC Breakfast, Daybreak - people who have been helped by our services show that it is really working, and that shows other people that help is available.'

More recently, too, Shelter has come up with innovative ideas to spread its message. A spoof banking advert in The Times, claiming that the Bank of Mum and Dad was about to implode, was accompanied by a short spoof news report talking about the housing crisis.

'We were lucky to work with agency Leagas Delaney on a pro bono basis,' Harding explains. 'The point was that we bailed out the big banks, but no-one has bailed out the Bank of Mum and Dad. It worked brilliantly with our target audience - a new audience for us.

'It would be easier for us to only talk to those on the sharp end of the housing crisis - young people, and people in London in particular. However much parents are scraping money together to help out, but we knew that they wouldn't be able to be able to bridge the affordability gap.'

The Bank of Mum and Dad campaign highlighted the fact that homelessness affects us all, and was followed up with plenty of media coverage. Shelter backed it up with some research into the true contribution given by the Bank of Mum and Dad, which gave the campaign more traction in the personal finance pages of the newspapers.

Another new idea this year is the Great Gingerbread House Sale, an initiative that Harding hopes will raise money and spread awareness of Shelter as well, particularly in schools and with other people. Organisations and families are being encouraged to bake and decorate gingerbread houses and upload photos of them for a competition. They are also encouraging them to sell them to raise funds for Shelter.

'It's been really good to see people sharing their houses on social media,' Harding said. Entries already include a full-scale primary school in gingerbread with a football pitch - proof that younger people are getting involved with the campaign.

For Harding, who joined Shelter from a public affairs and policy role at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the transition has not been too difficult. 'While the JRF always sets out clear evidence and exposes things, Shelter also gets involved in innovative campaigning.' He says that although he still had things to learn about the communications end of his job, the fact that the team was so cohesive made it easier, and he also brought skills from his first job at Cicero Consulting, where he worked for a variety of blue chip clients on the public affairs side.

As Christmas hysteria ramps up, Shelter has more up its sleeve to highlight the housing difficulties. 'There will be more stories, and more figures,' Harding says. 'And we'll be urging people to share them with families and friends on social media. That's the best way to persuade people to get in touch, because it shows them that housing difficulties can happen to people like them.'

The organisation runs its helpline on Christmas Day, and the media team, too, will be ready to provide comment for anyone who asks for it.

'The most important thing is to tell people that homelessness is an everyday issue,' Harding concludes. 'This isn't about other people, and there is no safety net to catch them anymore. This is about our friends, and our families, and it is happening now.'