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:

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person

Our expert advisers can:

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 ask 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 as homeless if you:

  • are homeless now
  • will be homeless within 8 weeks
  • have received a valid section 21 notice that expires within 8 weeks

Asylum support accommodation usually ends 28 days after the Home Office grants your refugee status.

How the council can help

The council carry out a homeless assessment to look at why you're homeless or facing homelessness and work out your housing needs.

They give you a personal housing plan that sets out the steps you and the council must take to help you keep your home or find somewhere else.

Housing when homeless

The council doesn't have to provide housing for everyone who is homeless. 

If you are homeless and have refugee status, to qualify for emergency or longer term housing from the council, you must be in a priority need group.

You are classed as in priority need if you:

  • have dependent children who live with you
  • are pregnant or live with a pregnant woman
  • are under 21 and were in 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

You don't qualify for longer-term housing if the council decides you're homeless because of something you've done or failed to do. This is called being intentionally homeless.

Referral to another area

If you apply to a council for help, but don't have any links in that area, they can refer you to another council in the area where you last lived in asylum support accommodation.

If you have lived in another area since leaving asylum support accommodation (or were never in this type of housing), the council could refer you to another area where you have a local connection.

You could have a local connection because you have built up links based on living, working or having close family in the area., or some other special reason.

The council can't make a local connection referral until they have assessed your situation and given you a personal housing plan.

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.

You may qualify for free legal help:

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

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

The council should help you to find a private tenancy if they don't provide you with housing. 

Some charities run schemes to help homeless people find a private tenancy or a room in a shared house. Search for a scheme in your area using the Help to Rent database run by Crisis.

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

Private landlords must check that you have the right to rent. They must ask to see your passport or papers from the Home Office that show you have the right to live in the UK.

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 benefits.

For help with to pay the rent, you need to apply for housing benefit or, in some areas, you claim universal credit instead.

If housing benefit or universal credit doesn't cover your full rent, you can apply to the council for a discretionary housing payment.

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. Ask the council if they can help.

You might also 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

This can include:

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

If you stay with friends or family, you can receive cash support there.

If you are refused asylum but can’t leave the UK, you may get short-term housing and a payment card to help with your living costs.

The charity Asylum Help can get help with your asylum support application:

Contact the Asylum Helpline on 0808 8000 630

Help from social services

You should apply to social services for help if you have a significant disability or serious health problem or you're under 18 and have no family in the UK.

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?

Charities providing advice and support to refugees and asylum seekers:

Websites if you're supporting a refugee or asylum seeker:


Last updated - 03 Apr 2018

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