Rough sleeping can be a scary last resort. It means you might be sleeping in doorways, parks or bus shelters. Here you can find what help is available for you to find somewhere more permanent to live.
On this page, we’ll cover the following topics and questions and tell you about the support that’s available out there. Contact the Centrepoint Helpline if you would like to talk this through.
Skip to the right section
Where can I go for help if I'm rough sleeping?
What is a day centre and how does it help?
What is a night shelter and how does it help?
What's the severe weather emergency protocol?
Making a homeless application
What is a local connection?
Your rights when you're rough sleeping
Contact friends or family
When you’re facing a night of rough sleeping, it might be hard to think straight. Is there someone you trust who you could ask to stay with for a few nights? That might be friends or family. It might feel difficult to ask, but it could be worth making that call.
Contact the council
Ask to speak to the housing team and tell them you are sleeping rough. If you know you don’t have anywhere to stay tonight, call the council as early in the day as possible.
They should have an out-of-hours phone number. Use this if you’re calling outside office hours.
StreetLink connects you with outreach workers who will help you access support.
To get help from StreetLink, you’ll need to describe:
- What you look like
- What you’re wearing
- Where you are going to spend the night.
Outreach workers will look to find you as soon as possible. It might take a couple of days for them to come out to you, so you’ll need to stay where you’ve said you’ll be – if you feel safe to do so. They will then connect you with the support you need. That might include referring you to a day centre or night shelter, or to medical help if you’re unwell.
It’s easier for outreach workers to find you in obvious places, like outside A&E departments or train stations. Try to avoid parks as they are generally unsafe and make you harder to find. If you need to move, StreetLink can amend the outreach info – so if you’ve said you’re going to be in one location, but had to move to keep safe – they can update the outreach teams with the correct information.
Contact the Centrepoint Helpline
We have friendly advisors who will help talk you through your next steps.
Day centres are safe, warm places to go during the day. They usually offer showers, hot meals and somewhere to charge your phone and use the internet. Sometimes they have drop-in health surgeries.
Day centres often have advisors available, who may be able to refer you to somewhere to stay, like a hostel or night shelter. They might also be able to talk to you about accessing benefits or mental health support.
During the winter, you can also go to a warm space – somewhere safe and warm to spend the day. Put your postcode into the Warm Welcome website to find one close to you.
Contact the Centrepoint Helpline if you need help finding out where your nearest day centre or warm space is.
Night shelters offer somewhere to sleep when you are rough sleeping. You usually sleep in a room with other people. Some night shelters offer showers and hot meals.
To find a night shelter, contact us as early as possible during the day. Contact the Centrepoint Helpline to find one near you. We’re not always able to refer people into accommodation on the same day but we will do our best.
If it’s outside office hours and you need to find a night shelter, call Shelter until 8pm. Their details are at the bottom of this page. After 8pm, we recommend that you try the out of hours number with your local council.
In extreme weather, most councils provide emergency accommodation. This is called Severe Weather Emergency Protocol or SWEP. If it’s extremely cold, check with your local council to see if they are providing SWEP accommodation.
To access support from your local council, you need to make a homeless application with them.
They will assess if you are ‘priority need’. If the council assesses you and finds that you are homeless, eligible and priority need, it must offer you emergency or temporary accommodation straight away.
You are classed as a priority if you:
- Are at risk of domestic abuse
- Are pregnant or have children
- Are under 18
- Have health or mental health conditions
- Are under 21 and have left care
- Have lost your accommodation because of an emergency, such as a fire or flood
- Have a ‘vulnerability’, such as a disability or have served in the armed forces.
Emergency accommodation is very short term, usually a night or two before you’ve been assessed. You might be offered a room in a hotel or bed and breakfast.
Temporary accommodation is for a longer period of time, usually from a few months to two years, while you wait for your assessment decision or find somewhere longer term to live. This might be in a hostel or refuge or a room in shared house.
You have to pay for both emergency and temporary accommodation. You can usually claim benefits to pay for them.
If you don’t accept the emergency or temporary accommodation that the council offers you, your homeless application may be closed, which means the council won’t help you find somewhere to live.
To get support from the council, you need to have a local connection with the area.
That means you have:
- Lived in the area for six of the last 12 months, or three of the previous five years
- A permanent job in the area
- A close family member who has lived in the area for five years or more.
- If you’ve gone to a new town or city, it’s unlikely the council there will be able to help you. It’s best to apply for help in an area you have a local connection to.
Under the Vagrancy Act, it’s illegal to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales. In fact, people sleeping rough can be punished with a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record.
Thankfully, in February 2022, the UK government said they would scrap this old law. But this hasn’t actually happened yet. The government is still deciding what to replace the old law with. So, if you are homeless, you may still be punished for sleeping rough under the act.
- Think carefully about whether there’s anyone who you trust you could ask to stay with.
- Contact organisations that may be able to help as early in the day as possible – whether that’s the council or a helpline like ours.
- Before you make any calls, try and find somewhere quiet, safe and warm to talk – like a local library or shopping centre. Then it will be easier to take in information than if you’re walking along busy streets.
- If you have to sleep on the streets, try and keep yourself as safe as you can. Some young people have told us they find it safer to stay on night buses or 24-hour food outlets where people are around. This is especially important if you are a woman, as women can be at greater risk.
- Try to have something warm or waterproof to wear. It can get very cold at night – even if it’s been a warm day. In particular, try to keep your head, hands and feet warm.
- Don’t sleep on the ground without a blanket or sleeping bag, as it can get very cold.
- Remember that you even if you are sleeping rough you are entitled to register with a GP.
- If you are in immediate danger, call the emergency services by dialling 999.
To talk to someone at the weekend or in the evening, call Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444 (8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm at weekends).