I'm sofa surfing

Advice for if you are staying temporarily with friends or family

If you are sofa surfing and facing the risk of homelessness for any reason, you can find the advice and support you need with our comprehensive guide.

Sofa surfing is staying for short periods with different friends or family because you have nowhere to live. Even though you may have a temporary roof over your head when you sofa surf, you are still classed as homeless.

You might be staying with friends, family or even people you don’t know very well. Perhaps you are sleeping on people’s sofas or floors, moving around from house to house or staying with someone who is taking advantage of you. 

You have rights to help you find somewhere to live long term. You do not have to wait until you are on the streets to get help.

On this page, you can find out more about what these rights look like. Contact the Centrepoint Helpline if you would like to talk this through. 

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I’m sofa surfing. Can I get help from the council?
What help will the council give me if I’m sofa surfing?
I’m not classed as priority need. What now?
I’m sofa surfing and don’t feel safe where I’m staying. What can I do?

I’m sofa surfing. Can I get help from the council?

Yes. You have the right to be assessed by your local council for help. This is called making a homeless application. Sofa surfing means you’re classed as being homeless.

Do this as soon as possible and ideally before you have to move out of the place you are currently sleeping in. It can take up to eight weeks for the council to make a decision about what support you may receive. 

Find out what steps you need to go through to make a homeless application. Or contact our Helpline to talk through your next steps.

What help will the council give me if I’m sofa surfing?

When you make a homeless application with your local council, they will assess if you are ‘priority need’. It can take up to eight weeks to get a decision about what help you are entitled to.  

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. 

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.  

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.

Find out more about emergency accommodation.   

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.

Find out more about temporary accommodation  

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.  

I’m not classed as priority need. What now? 

  • Challenge the council’s decision if you believe it is wrong. Find out how to challenge the council or call our Helpline to talk through your next steps.  

  • The local authority will give you a personal housing plan which must be reviewed regularly. Take the actions listed in it to help you find accommodation.   

  • Look for privately rented accommodation or get on a waiting list for council or housing association accommodation. You might really want your own space, but it can be much quicker and cheaper to find a room in shared accommodation than a flat to yourself. We talk through these housing options here.  

  • Ask the council if they can make a referral to other types of housing, such as hostels. 

  • Ask your housing officer at the council what other help is available, for example rent deposit schemes. 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. They often have advisors available who may be able to refer you to other types of housing. Contact our Helpline to help find your nearest day centre.  

  • If you can, and it is safe to do so, ask to stay longer with friends or family you trust. This will give you more time to look for longer-term accommodation.  

I’m sofa surfing and don’t feel safe where I’m staying

When you are sofa surfing, you are relying on other people to give you a bed for the night. That can put you in a vulnerable position.  

Some young people find themselves being exploited or abused. This is wrong – even if the person is giving you somewhere to stay.   

If you are at immediate risk, call 999. 

If you are experiencing abuse where you are staying, it is considered domestic abuse. This is considered ‘priority need’ by the council and you can go to any council for help, not only your local one. 

You should be able to get a place in a refuge run by a charity. If you do this, it’s still important to make a homeless application with the council so you can access longer term support. 

You could contact

24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline

Confidential advice and support for women experiencing domestic violence and for those calling on their behalf.  
Call: 0808 2000 247 
Visit the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline site 

Men’s Advice Line website 

Confidential advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse from a current or ex-partner.
Call: 0808 801 0327
Email: info@mensadviceline.org.uk 
Visit the Men’s Advice Line website 


Support for LGBTQ+ people who have experienced domestic abuse, hate crime and sexual violence.
Call: 0800 999 5428 
Email: help@galop.org.uk 
Visit Galop's Website

If you’re under 18, and are experiencing violence, abuse or threats where you are living, contact children’s services at your local council as soon as you can. If you are at school or college, speak to a teacher or trusted adult who can support you or speak up for you on your behalf. 


Call: 0800 1111 for confidential support.
Visit Childline's website

Find out what to do if you’re experiencing violence, abuse or threats, of any kind.

Talk to us  

Remember that even if you’re sofa surfing, you are technically homeless and you have rights to help you find somewhere to stay long term.

Contact our Helpline to talk through your options