How can the council help?

If you ask the council for help because you are homeless, they will look into your situation. If the council decides that you meet certain criteria, it has a duty to continue to provide temporary accommodation for you.

Temporary accommodation could be a hostel or bed & breakfast. You still have to pay for temporary accommodation, but if you claim benefits or are on a low income you may be able to get housing benefit. It might be decided that you need to stay at home or with a friend until they can find something more suitable.

The council should then make an offer of settled accommodation. This could be council or housing association homes or a private rental tenancy. There are usually long waiting lists and the property you are offered may not be in the area of your choice.

If you are under 18 it’s a bit different. You are considered a child in the eyes of the law and your local council has a legal duty to support you. Social services may support you through family mediation if you are at home, or accommodate you in children’s homes, foster care or hostels.

What should I expect if I go to the local council

If you are over 18 you should visit the housing department at your local council. You should explain that you are homeless or soon will be and ask to make a homelessness application.

The council should then make an appointment for you to be interviewed by a housing officer. This should be on the same day if you have nowhere to stay that night, otherwise they may ask you to come back on a different day.

If you’re under 18, you should contact children’s services at your local council as soon as you can. If you are at school or college, you should speak to a teacher or trusted adult who can support you with this or speak up for you on your behalf. If you are under 18, you are considered a child in the eyes of the law and your local council has a legal duty to support you.

Where should I go?

You can use this tool to find out where to go at your local council.

What should I take with me?
  • Proof of identity: ID card, driving licence, birth certificate or passport
  • Reason you have to leave: letter of eviction from your landlord or the person you were living with
  • Proof of your income: wage slips or JSA claim
  • Proof of any medical conditions you have
  • Proof of your immigration status

Don't worry if you don't have all of these things the first time you go to the council, it's best to make contact with them as soon as possible and then start sorting out the paperwork.

What will they ask me?

The council will be trying to find out whether you meet their criteria and what support they can offer you.

They will ask you about:

Your situation - why you are homeless or why you will be homeless.

If you are eligible– this means if you are a UK citizen or someone who has the right to live in the UK.

If you are in priority need– for example if you are pregnant, have children, health or mental health conditions.

If you became homeless through no fault of your own.

If you have a connection to the local area– this could be that you’ve lived in the area for at least 6 months, have close family members in the area or work in the area.

Tips for going to the council

Find out when the housing office opens and get there early. Be prepared to wait – you could be there all day

It can be hard to talk about your personal situation and history, but it’s really important that you give the council a full picture of your situation and why you need support, for example if you have been experiencing violence at home or if you have mental health issues

  • Get the name, phone number and email of the council officer you talk to
  • Make sure you are clear about what will happen next before you leave
  • If the council says they can’t help you, you should ask for the reasons why and get confirmation in writing
  • Remember you can request a homelessness application, they shouldn’t turn you away without giving you an opportunity to make one
  • If you can, take a friend or a trusted adult with you for support.
How long will I have to wait for a decision?

It's hard to say, the council might make a decision straight away or might take longer to do a full assessment.

If the council confirms that you're homeless, eligible and in priority need, it must offer you emergency accommodation straight away while your application is being looked at and protect your personal property if you're unable to do so yourself.

My council says they can't help me, what can I do?

If you've completed a full homelessness application and assessment with the council, and they have refused to house you or said that you're not in "priority need", the council still has a duty to help relieve your homelessness. This is because of something called the Homelessness Reduction Act.

This is a change to the law which only came into force in April 2018. Anyone who is homeless or at of homelessness can get support regardless of whether they're intentionally homeless or in priority need. Your local council should work with you to complete a personalised housing plan. 

The personalised housing plan will set out the steps you and the council must take for you to remain in or find suitable accommodation. Examples of this can include:

  • family mediation
  • providing financial support to help you into private rented accommodation
  • making a referral to other types of housing such as hostels
  • helping to secure an immediate safe place to stay for anyone who is sleeping rough

You can also visit a day centre. Day centres offer showers and hot meals and have advisors who may be able to refer you into other types of housing like hostels and supported accommodation. You can find your nearest day centre by searching the Homeless UK website.

If you believe you have a right to be housed, you can challenge the council’s decision. To find out if your case can be challenged you can get free legal advice from one of the following:

The Civil Legal Advice Line on 0345 345 4 345

A Law Centre. Find your nearest one.

You can also contact Shelter's helpline – call 0808 800 4444 (8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm at weekends) for advice on finding a place to stay for the night. Staff at the helpline can give you immediate practical assistance, explain your rights and suggest services that may be able to help you. 

If you can, arrange to stay for a short time with friends or family that you trust. This will give you more time to look for longer-term accommodation.

I'm a care leaver, what should I do?

If you are a care leaver you may be able to get housing help from social services. They should continue to help you until you turn 25, regardless of whether you're still in full time education. The help you get depends on your age and what help social services provide in your area. Visit the housing department of your local council as soon as possible and ask to make a homeless application.

If you feel you are not getting the help you are entitled to you can get independent advice from an advocacy service. 

If you're in London contact:

Coram Voice

0808 800 5792

Email Coram Voice

Visit Coram Voice's website

There are also nation-wide services including:

Just for Kids Law

0203 174 2279

Email Just for Kids Law

Visit Just for Kids Law's website


0208 550 8822

Visit Barnado's website

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