Rising numbers of people are becoming suicidal as spiralling mortgage arrears mean they face the threat of losing their home, a Bradford charity has warned.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) said that 28 per cent of its new clients in 2012 were in arrears with their rent or mortgage, compared to 21 per cent of callers the year before.

That comes as Hope Housing, which helps homeless people in the district, reported that it helped four people without a home at Christmas, two who had been evicted and two who left prison with nowhere to go.

A CAP spokesman said: “This shows that those who call us are in an increasingly-serious situation, with four in ten of callers nationally saying they were suicidal in 2012.”

Homelessness charity Shelter has warned that 7.8 million Britons are struggling to keep up with their rent or mortgage payments, a sharp increase on a year ago.

Shelter also estimates almost one million people took out a payday loan in 2012 to help them cover their mortgage or rent.

The CAP spokesman added: “Shelter’s figures are a grave concern. It’s difficult when you have a range of debts, and some of those creditors are shouting very noisily, to think straight amid all the stress and pay the right one.

“However, the roof over your head is the priority, along with food and utilities because the consequences of not paying them are far more serious.

“There is good news for people who ask for the help they need because often we’ll go into court with clients who are due to be evicted and find that they are treated very favourably when the court hears CAP is involved. Our best advice is to do something – speak to the mortgage companies, negotiate all you can, get debt help from a not-for-profit like us or Citizens Advice if that’s what you need. Don’t sit on the problem.”

Alex Bohdanowicz, of Bradford and Airedale Citizens Advice Bureau, said she was not surprised by the increase in people struggling to meet their mortgage and rent payments.

“This reflects the difficulties our clients are facing when they seek advice from the bureau,” she said. “While most people recognise the need to prioritise payment for housing costs, cuts in wages, loss of job and reductions in tax credits and increasing fuel costs have caused serious problems for people in trying to meet ends meet.”

The CAB operates a debt advice line on (01274) 758047 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9.30am to 12.30pm.