How to survive living on the streets

Sleeping on the streets can be cold and dangerous. It's important to keep safe, warm and well while you find a place to stay.

1 Keep warm

Try to stay as warm and dry as you can if you are on the streets. Day centres are a warm place you can go if you are homeless. They are usually open during the day.

Day centres may be able to help you with free items such as shoes, a change of clothes and sleeping bags. Most day centres provide washing and laundry facilities as well as showers. 

Find a local day centre on Homeless England.

2 Eat well

It's possible to get free or cheap food if you are living on the streets. Day centres offer cheap meals for homeless people, usually breakfast and lunch.

Soup runs are food projects often provided by charities and faith groups in larger towns and cities. They provide free hot or cold food and drinks for homeless people. Use Shelter's directory to find a day centre or an advice agency to tell you about food projects in your area.

A homelessness outreach worker, day centre or advice centre may be able to help you with a referral to a food bank.

Find your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.

3 Find a safe place to sleep

It's important to find a safe place to sleep at night. You may be able to find a hostel, night shelter or cold weather shelter in your area on Homeless England

If you have to sleep rough, make sure you sleep where other people are sleeping. Keep to brighter-lit, sheltered areas, and use cardboard or matting to keep off the ground. Try to keep yourself safe and warm.

4 Sort out your money

You can still claim benefits even without a permanent address as long as you meet the normal entitlement rules. Use Shelter's directory to find local welfare advice services to make sure you can claim or to help with any problems.

Many benefits are claimed through Jobcentre Plus. Their advisers can also help you to find work and with money for travel expenses for interviews. Find your nearest Jobcentre Plus on Gov.uk.

Day centre and hostel staff may be able to help you find paid work. If you are a homeless person, you may be able to get work selling the Big Issue magazine.

5 Look after your health

You can register with a doctor even if you don't have a permanent address. If you can't get an appointment with a doctor, NHS walk-in centres can provide emergency treatment for minor injuries and illnesses. Use NHS Choices to find your nearest walk-in centre or details of local NHS health care services.

There are also health care services just for homeless people. Check what is available in your area on Homeless England.

Some day centres have nurses, visiting GPs, opticians, chiropodists, alcohol and drug advisers. 

If you inject drugs, don't share needles and try to always use clean needles. Search for needle exchanges on Homeless England.

6 Keep in touch

You could use a phone in a day centre to stay in contact with friends and family.

Could you keep in touch by email? Some libraries, day centres and hostels provide free access to computers. Use Gov.uk to find your local library or to book free computer access in a library.

If you don't want to make direct contact, you could still leave a message for friends or family using the Missing People helpline on Freephone 116 000. 

7 Find a place to keep your belongings

Day centres and hostels may have some storage facilities to store your belongings for a limited period of time.

Fill out my online form.

Last updated:

  • Print this page
  • Email this page