The plight of the elderly facing eviction is Shelter's theme for a new direct mail campaign.

The homelessness charity is sticking to its usual media by sending out mailings to its 50,000 cash donors, but this time it is highlighting the housing plight of the elderly for the first time.

The campaign envelope bears the words, "Imagine what the document inside would do to you, if you were 79". The document is a possession order form, and is accompanied by a picture of an elderly woman and her dog fixed with a paperclip to the top of the page.

Also inside is a photo of an old lady in her kitchen, with the strapline, "Homelessness and poor housing hits you hard when you are old".

The theme running through the campaign is the distress caused to the elderly by the use of possession orders as a first resort by landlords trying to reclaim rent arrears, and the time and cost spent by elderly tenants fighting their case. Old people often fall behind with payments because of bereavement or illness.

A spokesman at Shelter said: "It is a very targeted campaign to make people aware that it is not just homeless people in the street who need help," he said.

"The campaign is a way of engaging people in the work of Shelter and explaining that real people are involved. There is a tragedy behind each statistic."

The campaign is aiming to raise £70,000, some of which will go directly to old people in need, with the remainder going to Shelter to pay for services for the elderly.

The charity funds housing advisers around the country to make visits to the elderly who are facing difficulties, providing support and practical advice. Older people who are finding it difficult to meet payments will require financial help, while others may need assistance to find somewhere else to live.

Alan Gosschalk, Shelter's director of fundraising said: "We're particularly pleased with this campaign, as it effectively challenges common misconceptions about homelessness.

"The truth is that people of all ages throughout the whole country are suffering the ignominy of homelessness right now," he said.

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