Help if you’re homeless: ex-prisoners

If you've left or are about to leave prison, get help finding somewhere to live.

Contact a Shelter adviser

If you don't have anywhere to go when you're released from prison:

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Our expert advisers will:

Help from the council

When you apply to the council as homeless, the help you get depends on your circumstances.

Emergency housing

One of the conditions for qualifying for emergency housing is being in priority need.

You have an automatic priority need for housing if you:

  • are pregnant
  • have children who live with you
  • are aged 18-20 and spent time in care when you were 16 or 17

You also have a priority need if you're classed as 'vulnerable'. This means it's harder for you to cope with being homeless than other people in the same situation.

You may be classed as vulnerable due to your time spent in prison. The council must consider:

  • your physical and mental health and how it affects you
  • how long you spent in prison and when you were released
  • if you've been able to find or keep accommodation since release
  • any support you get from friends or family

The council should speak to agencies involved in your support and supervision when deciding if you're vulnerable. For example, probation, youth offending team or drug and alcohol services.

Longer-term housing

You usually need to have links to an area to qualify for longer-term housing there. This is known as a local connection and includes living or working in the area. 

Being in prison in an area doesn't count as a local connection.

If you qualify for longer-term housing and apply to an area where you don't have links, you will be referred to an area where you do. You can't be referred to another area if you:

  • don't have a local connection there  
  • are prevented from living there (for example, an injunction means you can't go there or you're at risk of violence there)

If the council says you are intentionally homeless

The council doesn't have to help with longer-term housing if you lost your home because of something you deliberately did or didn't do. This is known as being 'intentionally homeless'.

You could be intentionally homeless if, for example, you lost your home because you:

  • were convicted of a serious offence
  • didn't pay rent when you were in prison

Get legal advice if the council says you're intentionally homeless. You may be able to challenge the decision.

Find advice in your area using Shelter's service directory.

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

Help before you leave prison

Most prisons have a housing advice and resettlement service called Through the Gate. The service is delivered by charities including Shelter, St Giles Trust and Catch22.

A resettlement worker in prison can help you with things like:

  • a housing benefit claim
  • rent arrears or eviction 
  • referrals to suitable accommodation if you'll be homeless on release 

You can apply for the following grants before release:

  • a £46 discharge grant
  • up to £50 for your first night's accommodation (paid direct to the housing provider)

Help if released on bail or a tag

You need a suitable address to stay at before you can be released on:

Court or prison staff may refer you to the Bail Accommodation Support Scheme (BASS) if you cannot live at your usual address.

Contact Nacro's Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 for further advice.

Help from the probation service

You're allocated a probation officer in the area you'll be living after release. Your probation officer manages your supervision in the community.

Your resettlement worker in prison works on your resettlement plan with your probation officer.

If you're released on licence, the conditions of your licence might mean you can't live in certain areas.

Probation teams can give you housing advice and may be able to refer you to a specialist hostel, supported housing or private landlords.

Help with housing costs

You might be able to apply for housing benefit to help pay your rent. In some areas you will have to claim universal credit instead.

Your council or a charity may also be able to give you:

You may also get help with food, heating and clothing from a local welfare scheme. 

Find a scheme near you:

If you have problems finding private housing, you could:

  • use an independent landlord rather than an agency
  • offer a bigger deposit or rent in advance
  • ask someone to agree to pay any debt (a guarantor)

Find out more about claiming benefits on release from Turn 2 Us.

Still need help?

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

  • NACRO (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) 
    0300 123 1999  (9am - 5pm Monday to Friday)
  • Women in Prison
    0800 953 0125 (Women only)

Last updated - 02 Oct 2017

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