Being homeless doesn’t have to mean you’re on the streets. You could be sofa surfing or staying with different friends to be considered homeless.
Getting help from the council can feel complicated and frustrating. Knowing what you’re entitled to and what to expect can help you to feel more confident and prepared.
On this page, you can find out more about information about how the council can help you and how to contact them.
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How can the council help me?
How do I make a homeless application?
What will the council ask me and what documents will I need to show them?
How can I challenge the council's decision?
I'm a care leaver, what should I do?
Top tips for talking to the council
In England, your local council has a duty to help you if you won’t have a home in the next eight weeks. Your legal right to this support comes under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.
That support could be:
- emergency housing, if you’re considered ‘priority need’. This might be a hostel or bed and breakfast
- temporary housing, like such as a room in a shared private house, private, council or housing association accommodation, or a hostel or refuge
- support to find longer-term housing. This could be council or housing association homes or a private rental property
- help to stay in your home
- a loan to pay a tenancy deposit, which you'll pay back over time
- help with your first month’s rent
- family mediation
- support with domestic abuse
- guidance to coming to an agreement with your private landlord.
If you are offered emergency or temporary accommodation you still have to pay for it, but if you claim benefits or are on a low income, you may be able to get housing benefit.
If you’re under 18, you are still considered a child by law – even if you don’t feel like one.
Your local council has a legal duty to support you.
How can I find my local council?
Enter your postcode here to find your local council.
Making a homeless application is the first step to accessing support from the council.
First, you’ll need to get in touch with the homeless team at your local council. It’s best to do this as soon as possible – you don’t have to wait until you’re homeless. The sooner you start the process, the better. It could take a few weeks to get an appointment.
If you need urgent help in the evening or at the weekend, use the out of hours council services. Ask to talk with whoever deals with homeless applications outside office hours.
When you make a homeless application, the council will ask you questions to find out if you meet certain criteria and work out what support they can offer. It’s important to be as open and honest as you can. This is your chance to get the support you’re entitled to. The more information you share, the clearer the picture of your situation will be.
The council will want to see certain documents. They might want you to email them, upload them to an online form, or bring them into the council office. But if you need urgent help and don’t have all these documents, contact the council anyway.
Find out more about what the council will ask you and which documents they will ask for.
How long will I have to wait for a decision?
It’s hard to say how long it will take. The council might make a decision right away or they could do a full assessment which will take longer. They have a duty to come back to you within eight weeks.
If the council confirms that you're homeless, eligible and in priority need, it must offer you emergency accommodation straight away.
What can I do while I’m waiting for a decision?
You might have to wait for a decision on your application for a long time. It could take up to eight weeks.
But you will need to chase the council if you haven’t heard from them. You can always phone the housing officer you spoke to for an update on your assessment and find out when a decision will be made.
Even after you’ve had a decision, waiting lists for some accommodation can be long. While you’re waiting, you might like to look into private accommodation or contact local homeless charities who may be able to help you sooner.
Here are some other actions you can take to find accommodation.
You may be able to challenge their decision. It can be a tough process, but it’s worth it if you believe their decision is wrong. Find out how to challenge the council or call us to talk through your next steps.
There are also other options open to you:
- Take any actions in your personal housing plan. These should be specific to your situation to help you find accommodation. You can ask them to be reviewed if you don’t feel they’re right for your situation.
- Ask the council if they can make a referral to other types of housing, such as hostels.
- Ask the council what other help is available – , for example rent deposit schemes, for example. This is when the council pays your deposit to a private landlord on your behalf and you pay them back over time.
- Visit a day centre. As well as offering showers, hot meals and somewhere to charge your phone, day centres often have advisors available who may be able to refer you to other types of housing. Contact us if you need help finding out where your nearest day centre is.
If you can, ask to stay for a short time with friends or family you trust. This will give you more time to look for longer-term accommodation.
You may be able to get help from social services. They should continue to support you until you turn 25, regardless of whether you're still in full time education. The support you get depends on your age and what help social services provide in your area.
Make a homeless application as soon as possible as you should be considered a priority.
If you are a care leaver and want support to get the help you’re entitled to, you can get independent advice from an advocacy service.
You can also contact:
Just for Kids Law
Coram Voice (if you’re in London)
Remember that it’s your legal right to get help from the council and that you are entitled to request a homelessness application. The council shouldn’t turn you away without giving you the opportunity to make one. Be determined.
Find out when the council’s housing office opens and get there early. You could be there all day, so be prepared to wait. If you call them, be persistent – you might need to leave voicemails and wait for them to call back.
Get the name, phone number and email address of the council officer you talk to. This will make it easier if you need to contact them again.
At the end of the conversation, make sure you are clear about what will happen next. Ask lots of questions if you need to.
Read more helpful tips for dealing with the council.
"I was confused, lost and scared to lose everything because I had nowhere to stay. Laura assured me everything will be okay and, thanks to her, I got through to Salford City Council who found me a place for over the weekend until further notice."
Testimonial from a young person who was helped by their local council.