Help if you’re homeless: refugees and asylum seekers

Get help finding somewhere to live if you’re a refugee or an asylum seeker.

Find an urgent place to stay

If you've been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection and are homeless:

Call Shelter's emergency helpline

Our expert advisers will:

We can find an interpreter to help with the call if you need one.

Asylum seekers

If you're an asylum seeker or have been refused asylum and don’t have anywhere to stay you should call an asylum helpline. Find out more on GOV.UK.

Refugees: apply for help from the council

You can apply to the council for help if you’re homeless and you've been granted:

  • refugee status
  • humanitarian protection

You won't be affected by immigration and residence restrictions.

When to apply

You can apply if you're homeless now or will be within 28 days.

Apply as homeless as soon as the Home Office grants you status if you're living in asylum support accommodation. Your accommodation usually ends after 28 days.

Who qualifies for housing when homeless

The council doesn't have to provide housing for everyone who is homeless. There are qualifying conditions for both emergency and longer-term housing.

The most important condition is being in a priority need group.

You usually have a priority need and qualify for emergency housing if you're:

  • a family with children
  • pregnant or live with a pregnant woman
  • under 21 and were in social services care when you were 16 or 17

If none of these apply, you only qualify for emergency housing if the council thinks you might be vulnerable.

'Vulnerable' means it's harder for you to cope with being homeless and you're at greater risk of harm than others who are homeless.

Tell the council about anything which makes you more vulnerable including:

  • any disability, health condition or illness which affects your daily life
  • trauma you've suffered in your home country or during your efforts to reach UK

If you're in priority need, you'll also qualify for longer-term housing unless you're homeless through your own deliberate actions.

Referral to another area

If you qualify for longer-term housing but don't have any links in the area you applied, you can be referred back to the last area where you lived in asylum support accommodation.

This is called a local connection referral.

If the council doesn't help

The council must give you a decision letter explaining why it won't help. A housing adviser could help you challenge the decision if it's wrong.

Contact our expert housing advisers online, by telephone or in person

If you don't qualify for housing from the council while you're homeless you can still apply to the housing register (a waiting list for a council or housing association home).

Refugees: find a private tenancy

You'll need to find a private tenancy if the council doesn't provide you with housing.

Some charities run schemes to help homeless people find a private tenancy or a room in a shared house.

The Refugee Council run a housing resettlement scheme for single refugees looking for private rented accommodation in London.

You can search for a scheme in your area on the Help to Rent database run by Crisis.

Refugees: get help with housing costs

You can usually get help to pay your rent by claiming benefits if you're on a low income.

You must apply for a National Insurance number before you can claim housing benefit.

Find out how to apply for housing benefit

In some areas, you have to claim universal credit instead.

You can apply for a discretionary housing payment if housing benefit or universal credit doesn't cover your full rent.

Help with a deposit and other costs

Private landlords usually ask for a deposit and rent in advance before they will offer you a tenancy.

You might be able to get help through a:

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

Search for a scheme in your area:

Asylum seekers: apply for asylum support

You can’t get council help with housing or apply for benefits if you're seeking asylum.

You can apply for asylum support which includes:

  • somewhere to live (usually outside of London or the south east of England)
  • cash support

You can’t choose where you live unless you stay with friends or family and only receive cash support.

If you’ve been refused asylum but can’t leave the UK, you may get a payment card and short-term housing.

You can get help with your asylum support application from the charity Asylum Help:

Contact the Asylum Helpline on 0808 8000 631

Asylum seekers: get immigration advice

You need to make an asylum claim before you can apply for asylum support.

Get specialist immigration advice before you have your asylum interview if you can.

Find out more on GOV.UK about how to:

Still need help?

These charities provide advice and support to refugees and asylum seekers:

These websites are very useful if you're supporting a refugee or asylum seeker:


Last updated - 22 Sep 2017

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