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A HOUSING charity has issued an urgent plea for volunteers after a 525 per cent surge in people needing help.

Bosses at Shelter made the request after a record-breaking number of individuals used the service in its first year at its new location.

The success of the new premises at Blackburn Library means the team needs help to meet rising demand.

Some 4,800 people have sought help since the move from Preston New Road in July 2016. Shelter workers advise on everything from homelessness to debt, poor housing and legal worries.

Shelter Lancashire manager Emma Garner issued the plea after a first birthday party at the library.

She said: “We’re thrilled to be able to help more people in Blackburn than ever who are struggling with bad housing and homelessness.

“The benefits of being in the middle of town have really become clear – our expert advisers are now far more accessible to the people of Blackburn as well as being able to work more closely with other support services in the town.

“And with our legal advisers now also in the library, it’s now a one-stop-shop debt and advice service for anyone struggling with housing problems.”

Shelter’s Lancashire operation opened in the town in 1999 and was based at Preston New Road until last summer.

One individual helped since is Tina (not her real name), recently returned to Blackburn with her two children after escaping from an abusive relationship.

She managed to find a flat near her parents but was unable to afford beds for the children, a fridge and other essential household items. She was also heavily in debt, having fled her old home without being able to clear unpaid bills and rent.

At a loss, she contacted Shelter Lancashire and her adviser was able to help her clear her fuel and rent arrears, allowing her to move into her new home. Shelter also helped Tina furnish her flat with the essentials she and family needed, and helped her to get set up.

Tina said: “Shelter do an amazing job. It is not just a job to them, and it has changed my life. They put humanity back into organisations and help bring justice by giving people like me a voice."

Ms Garner added: “If anyone would like to volunteer with Shelter in Blackburn we would welcome them with open arms.”