Help if you’re homeless: 16 and 17 year-olds

Find out how the council must help if you’re 16 or 17 and have nowhere to stay.

Which part of the council can help?

Social services - also known as childrens services - have the main responsibility for housing and support if you're under 18 and homeless.

The housing department - sometimes called the homeless service or housing options - must also provide emergency housing if you approach them first.

You can choose which part of the council to approach, but you will usually be referred to social services at some point even if you go to the housing department first.

Help from the housing department

The housing department must:

  • provide emergency housing if you need it
  • assess your situation and draw up a personal housing plan
  • refer you to social services for a 'child in need' assessment

The housing department can't help if you don't meet immigration conditions but they should still refer you to social services for housing and support.

Find out how to ask the housing department for help

Help from social services

Social services can give you support and find you somewhere to stay if you:

  • can't return home and have nowhere else to live
  • are staying with friends or another family and have been asked to leave
  • are unsafe in your home (for example, because you're at risk of violence or abuse)

Find your council website on GOV.UK and search for social services

Can the council make you return to your family home?

If you ask for help, social services or the housing department will look into your situation. This may involve speaking to your parents or other family members to check if you can stay safely with them.

Your welfare is the top priority and you shouldn't be pressured to return somewhere where:

  • you feel unsafe
  • you're at risk of violence or abuse
  • you've been told you can't stay or must leave

If returning home or staying with someone else is a possibility, the council should still provide emergency housing until they're sure that this is a safe option for you.

Types of housing you may be offered

The council may offer you a place in a:

  • hostel or foyer
  • foster carer's home
  • shared house with other young people
  • volunteer's home (through a scheme called Nightstop)

You shouldn't be housed in bed and breakfast when you're 16 or 17 even in an emergency.

You should accept what the council offers you even if you don’t want to stay there. You might not get further help if you turn it down. Get advice if you are in this situation. 

You should not be left without anywhere to stay if you're under 18 and homeless.

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Help with rent and living costs

Social services must usually help you with living costs and rent. You can't usually get benefits if social services are helping with your living costs.

You can sometimes claim benefits if you have to live away from your parents because you’re at risk or estranged from them.

Find out more about claiming benefits if you're under 18 from Turn2Us

Ongoing help when you turn 18

If social services provide accommodation while you're 16 or 17, you're classed as being 'looked after' or 'in care'.

As a care leaver, you'll have an automatic priority need if you become homeless again once you're over 18 but still under 21. 

This applies even if you only spend a few days in care while aged 16 or 17. For example, if social services provide you with somewhere to stay but you're then able to return to your family home.

If you spend more than 13 weeks in care, you're entitled to advice and support from social services until at least your 21st birthday. 

You will usually get help to move into longer term housing when you turn 18.

You may not qualify for this help if you're only provided with emergency housing by the housing department while under 18.


Last updated - 14 July 2020

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help

Get help

Email a link to this article

Thank you - your message has been sent.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Was this advice helpful?

Thank you - your feedback has been submitted to the team.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.