ARE YOU HOMELESS, SOFA SURFING OR AT RISK?

A homeless young person looking into the distance.

ADVICE IF YOU'RE HOMELESS

If you’re under 25 and homeless, here’s a guide that explains your housing rights and helps you find the support that’s right for you.

Your situation

I'm sofa surfing

If you are staying with a friend or moving around between friends, this is also homeless. You don’t need to be street homeless to get help.

Learn how to make a homeless application with your council >

 

I'm rough sleeping

If you are out all night, using night busses or sleeping in the street, we’d like to be able to link you with some good quality support as soon as possible.

Day centres are safe warm places to go during the day. They usually offer free food, showers and laundry facilities. They can often help with other things too like benefit claims and referrals into emergency accommodation.

You can find your nearest day centre by searching on Homeless Link >

If you are facing rough sleeping you can contact StreetLink on 0300 500 0914. You’ll need to describe what you look like, what you’re wearing and where you intend to spend the night. They will send this information to the outreach teams in your borough. Outreach workers go out during the late night/early morning to try to find anyone who is on their list. It’s easier for them to find you in obvious places like outside A&E departments or police stations. Try to avoid parks as they are generally unsafe make you harder to find.

If an outreach worker finds you, they will give you something called a chain number. You can use this chain number to access support. If there is room in a rough sleeper hub, outreach workers would try to get you in straight away. 

Most boroughs have a winter night shelter which is open when the weather is coldest, usually from around November to March. Night shelters are warm safe places often run by volunteers in church halls with mats or mattresses on the floor.

Sometimes night shelters separate the space between males and females but this isn’t guaranteed. Guests get a hot meal and a bed for the night. The shelter may move to a different place each night of the week but once you have a place, you can usually stay for as long as the shelter is open.

Shelters are usually linked to day centres and sometimes the local council. You would need to visit one of these first to ask about getting a night shelter place.

The day centre may also be able to work with you during your stay to help you move onto somewhere more permanent.

I'm a care leaver

If you’re a care leaver you may be able to get housing help from social services.  Social services used to stop supporting care leavers when they turned 21 if they were not in education.  This means that you might have had your case closed because you were not studying or not wanting to return to education. 

After a change in the law in April 2018, social services should offer help to all care leavers up to the age of 25 – even if you’re not in education.

It can be complicated to work out exactly what support you should be getting as it depends on what type of care arrangement you lived in, when and for how long. 

You can get independent advice on this from an advocacy service.  This is an organisation that works to make sure young people get the support they’re entitled to.

You can find your local advocacy service here by searching with your postcode > 

If there is no service nearby, or you are having trouble getting through to them, you can contact Coram Voice for free on 0808 800 5792 or Just For Kids Law on 0203 174 2279.

I'm experiencing violence, abuse or threats

If you’re fleeing violence you have the right to approach any local council. You usually need a local connection with the council to get housing support, but not if your local area is dangerous for you.

How to make a homeless application >

All councils follow the Homeless Code of Guidance which says:

"……it is not reasonable for a person to continue to occupy accommodation if it is probable that this will lead to domestic violence or other violence against:

  • The applicant
  • A person who normally resides as a member of the applicant’s family or,
  • Any other person who might reasonably be expected to reside with the applicant"

If you are female and the threat of violence is serious and ongoing you may be able to get a place in a refuge. A refuge is a safe temporary place that supports and protects women fleeing violence. The National Domestic Violence Helpline can give you a list of refuges around the country which may have spaces. You can call them on freephone 0808 2000 247

Men experiencing domestic violence can call Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327. Calls are free.

LGBT+ people experiencing domestic violence can call Galop on 0800 999 5428.

If you’re in immediate danger you should call 999. 

I'm pregnant or have children

You should approach your local council to make a homeless application. Here’s a guide on how to do this >

If you’re pregnant you’ll need to show proof of the pregnancy from your GP. Being pregnant means you are automatically in priority need for housing, as long as you’re eligible and homeless.

You’re also in priority need if you’re eligible and homeless with children under the age of 16 or under 19 and still in full time education or training.

The council must offer you accommodation, and this will probably be temporary accommodation.

All councils follow the Homeless Code of Guidance which says:

"Under the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003, Bed & Breakfast accommodation is not considered suitable for families with children and households that include a pregnant woman, except where there is no other accommodation available, and then only for a maximum of six weeks."

I'm not a UK citizen

Your immigration status will affect what kind of support you can access. This is a complex subject, so if you're unsure about your eligibility you should seek specialist immigration advice. It’s best to do this before you apply for housing at the council or apply for benefits at the job centre.

You can read more about your rights on the Shelter website. You can also call their Helpline for free on 0808 800 4444 (8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm at weekends).

Read your rights as an EU citizen in the UK >

Read your rights as a refugee or asylum seeker >

The Law Centres Network may also be able to help. All law centres offer legal advice in person and some run a telephone advice line. Look for the closest law centre to you and check if they offer immigration and housing advice.

Other things to consider

What is temporary accommodation?

If the council agrees that you are you’re eligible, homeless and in priority need it must offer you accommodation. This is likely to be temporary accommodation.

It’s unlikely you will be able to influence what or where the accommodation is but the council should consider things like your support network and children’s schools. You still have to pay for temporary accommodation but if you are on low income you may be able to claim housing benefit or universal credit.

It’s important to know that if you turn down an offer of temporary accommodation, the council may refuse to offer you anything else. The general advice around temporary accommodation is always to accept it unless you are at risk of harm there and challenge it later. We can’t pretend that challenging the suitability of accommodation is easy but it is usually preferable to being left with nothing.

If you’re already living in temporary accommodation it will usually be because:

  • The council thinks that you may be in priority need but needs more time to assess your situation. You can stay in temporary accommodation while the council completes the assessment. This will usually be for about 30 days. At the end of this time, the council should either accept you as priority need and the temporary accommodation will continue, or tell you you’re not in priority need and ask you to leave.
  • The council has agreed they have a legal duty to accommodate you. It’s called ‘temporary’ accommodation because it won’t be your permanent home but it could still be for many months. At some point, the council should make you an offer of settled (or permanent) accommodation. This could be council or housing association homes or a private rented tenancy. 

While you are living in temporary accommodation, there may be conditions which the council expect you to stick to, like staying at the property every night or not having people stay over. If you break these conditions, the council can evict you.

I want to challenge the council's decision

If your council have refused to provide you with accommodation and you believe that decision is wrong, you may be able to challenge their decision. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Make sure you have made a full homeless application and have a copy of the council’s decision letter (sometimes called a Section 184 decision letter).
  • You can ask for a review of this decision within 21 days. For advice on this you can call the Civil Legal Advice Line on 0345 345 4 345 or Shelter for free on 0808 800 4444.
  • If, after the first appeal, you still want to challenge the council’s decision you will need a solicitor. Ask at your nearest Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau. A solicitor will want to see your decision letter and if they believe you have a case, they may be able to take the council to court to ask for a Judicial Review. If you are on low income this can be done on legal aid.
Where else can I get help?

You may find it helpful to use a day centre. Day centres offer support to people who are homeless or in vulnerable housing. They usually offer hot meals, showers and laundry facilities. They may be able to offer advice. Sometimes they are able to do referrals into hostels or other types of accommodation.

You can find your nearest day centre by searching on Homeless Link >

Can I get into Centrepoint accommodation?

Centrepoint support homeless young people aged 16-25 in London, Manchester, Barnsley, Bradford and Sunderland.

To get a place in a Centrepoint hostel, you need a local connection to an area where we have accommodation and the local council will need to refer you.

Local councils offer different types of accommodation to young people who are homeless. We can’t guarantee you will get referred to Centrepoint.

Centrepoint's homeless support services. Call our Helpline if you are ever in need of support.

Want advice over the phone?

If you're rough sleeping, sofa surfing or don't feel safe in your home, The Centrepoint Helpline is here to support you. We can support you and give you help with housing if you're at risk of being homeless. 

Call us free on 0808 800 0661 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).

The Centrepoint Helpline team

Talk to us online

Our dedicated Helpline advisors are available to chat online Monday to Friday between 10am-4pm. If webchat is closed, please leave us a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. Please note we need your agreement to hold the personal data you provide. We'll hold your data securely for two years and delete it after this time.