I’m about to be made homeless, what should I do?
Finding the right local housing option can be very confusing so prepare to be passed from pillar to post all day.
We’ve found that getting help often depends on finding a person who understands the housing system and is prepared to guide you. “You need to find someone who knows what’s available and how to access it,” says Sarah Webb from Centrepoint. “If you don’t know your rights, try and find someone who does.”
Where the hell am I going to sleep tonight?
You need to get yourself to the housing department of your local council. They’ll assess your situation to see if they have a duty to house you straight away. Make sure you bring some ID with you, to prove your age, nationality and if you’re a student or not.
How do I find the housing department of my local council?
Put your postcode into the council homeless help tool.
If that doesn’t work, you can use Shelter’s Advice Finder tool. Type in your last postcode and click ‘search’ and then on the ‘councils’ tab. That should give you contact details and directions to your local housing agency.
Do the council have to give me somewhere to sleep straight away?
Not necessarily. It depends on a lot of things. When you get to the housing office, you’ll apply to be legally homeless. If they decide you’re a ‘priority need’, you’ll have to be given temporary emergency housing.
They absolutely must give you somewhere to stay if:
- You’re aged between 16–17: You’re likely to be siphoned off to the ‘children’s social care’ part of the council (formally known as social services). They’ll do an assessment to see if you’re a ‘child in need’, and you’ll be given emergency housing while they do this. This useful flow chart explains the housing help process.
- You’re pregnant or have children: You’re classed as priority need and should be given emergency accommodation while they assess you.
- If you’re under 21 and been in care: You’re classed as priority need and should be given emergency accommodation while they assess you.
I’m not sure if I have emergency housing rights or not?
Work out if you qualify for emergency housing using Shelter’s simple tool.
Don’t let the council fob you off. Calmly tell them it’s their legal duty to house you. If this sounds daunting, think about bringing a friend with you.
They won’t give me emergency housing, where do I go next?
The council shouldn’t turn you away without any help. However, they don’t always give you the best information.
“Sometimes all you’re given is an out-of-date sheet of paper with some phone numbers on it,” says Sarah. “You need to find someone who doesn’t just push you between the services.”
Where to try next:
Ring Shelter: This free helpline will give you instant practical advice on what you can do next. Call them on 0808 800 4444.
Homeless Day Centres: They don’t offer emergency accommodation, but they can help you find it. Day centres will have housing advisors trained in long- and short-term accommodation and links with local hostels. You can also buy cheap hot food, stay warm, and get internet access. To find a local day centre, use this search tool by Homeless UK – making sure you highlight ‘day centre’ or ‘homeless advice’ on the search form.
Look for a Nightstop scheme: If you’re aged 16–25, you may be able to get onto a Nightstop scheme, which lets you stay in the safe home of a volunteer. Check to see if there’s a scheme near you using the Depaul website.
Find an outreach worker: You need someone on your side who understands the housing options in your area. If you haven’t been able to get through to Shelter, try letting Streetlink know about your circumstances.
By Holly Bourne
Updated on 05-Sep-2014