What is homelessness?

You may be homeless if you live in unsuitable housing, don't have rights to stay where you are or you're sleeping rough. Find out about help if you're homeless.

Homeless even if you have a place to stay

Even with a roof over your head you can still be homeless, if you don't have any rights to stay where you live or your home is unsuitable due to severe overcrowding or other reasons.

You might be entitled to help as a homeless person if you are temporarily staying with friends or family or staying in a hostel or nightshelter.

If you have a home, you could be considered homeless if you live in very overcrowded conditions or in poor conditions that affect your health or you're at risk of violence or abuse in your home.

You may also be considered to be homeless if you:

  • live somewhere where you have no legal right to stay, such as if you are squatting
  • live in a home you can't afford to pay for without depriving yourself of basic essentials
  • are forced to live apart from your family - or someone you would normally live with - because your accommodation isn't suitable

Who is affected by homelessness

Homelessness affects a wide variety of people. Some people may be more vulnerable to homelessness.

You may be more at risk if you are:

Reasons why people are homeless

You could become homeless for many different reasons. These could include:

Help for homeless people

You may be able to get help from a local council if you are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Local councils have a legal duty to help some people, but not everyone gets help with housing. Some people can only get help with advice on finding a home.

Social services at a local council may help some people if the housing department of a council can't or won't help. This may happen if a council decides a family is intentionally homeless or a person is disabled or frail.

Some charities for the homeless may be able to help if you are single (or a couple without children) or a young person. Some provide temporary emergency accommodation such as nightshelters or hostels, or practical help in day centres.

A local church or charity may also be able to help with basics like food and clothing through day centres, soup kitchens and soup runs.

Use the Social Care Information search to find local help and advice if you need health or social care.

Get advice if you are homeless or at risk

Get advice as soon as possible if you are homeless or worried about becoming homeless.

An adviser might be able to help you find a way to stay in your home, find a new home more quickly or to get help from your local council.

You can also contact your local council or a local advice centre.

Call our free national helpline to get advice from Shelter.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

Contact Civil Legal Advice if you are homeless or may soon be homeless. You may be able to get help from a legal adviser if you qualify for legal aid.

Be prepared to answer questions about your income and savings so the helpline adviser can tell you if you qualify.

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