Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Homeless help from the council

What the homeless team look at

The first thing the council must check is if you have a right to emergency housing.

They must give you emergency housing if they think you might:

  1. be legally homeless

  2. meet immigration conditions

  3. have a priority need

You may need to show letters or documents to prove you meet these conditions.

You do not usually get emergency housing unless the council thinks you have a priority need.

Show you're homeless or will be soon

You could show things like a:

  • notice from your landlord

  • court order or bailiff notice

  • letter from from family or a friend that says when you have to leave

If you're likely to be homeless in the next 8 weeks, you are threatened with homelessness. This includes when you get a valid section 21 notice.

The council does not give you emergency housing while you're threatened with homelessness. Their job at this stage is to stop you becoming homeless.

Need to leave because of domestic abuse?

You're homeless and have a priority need for housing.

The council should not ask for proof of the abuse when you first ask for help.

If you say it's okay, the council can speak to your friends, family, health and support services or the police.

Find out about homeless help if you're at risk of domestic abuse.

If the council decides you're not homeless or at risk of homelessness they must explain why in a letter. You can ask for a review of their decision.

Get legal help if the council does not give you a letter.

Show you meet immigration conditions

You could show things like:

  • a letter from the Home Office that says you have refugee status

  • proof of ID such as a passport or residence permit

EU citizens can view and prove your immigration status on GOV.UK

The council only gives general advice if you do not meet the immigration conditions.

They must explain their decision in a letter if they say they cannot help.

Some councils make mistakes. Find out what to do if the council gets things wrong.

Show you have a priority need

You could show things like:

  • proof of child benefit

  • medical letters and reports

The council only has to provide emergency housing if they think you have a priority need.

Use our guide and letter template to help show you could have a priority need.

Your homeless assessment interview

The council must talk to you about your housing needs if they decide you:

  • are homeless now

  • could be homeless in the next 8 weeks

They make you an appointment. This is usually face to face at the council offices.

You could take someone with you if you need to. For example, a friend or support worker.

The appointment could be on the phone or online if you cannot attend in person. For example, because you're in hospital or in prison or have a disability.

When your assessment should happen

It should be very soon if you're already homeless, or will be in a few days.

The council must speak to you if they decide you're threatened with homelessness. They cannot just tell you to come back when you're homeless.

What the assessment covers

The council looks at:

  • what rent you can afford

  • the size of home you need

  • if you need to live in a certain area

  • any disability or health needs you or your family members have

The housing officer can ask social services to look at any care or support needs if you agree.

They should ask about everyone in your household. This includes anyone who usually lives with you, or would do if you were not homeless.

What happens next

Over the next few weeks, the council also looks into:

They do this to decide if you have a right to longer term housing.

They should help you with a personal housing plan during this time.

Help with a personal housing plan

The council writes your personal housing plan as part of the assessment.

This is short term help to either:

  • keep your home

  • find somewhere else to live for at least the next 6 months

Both you and the council have to take certain steps under the plan.

You might get an offer of housing as part of this help.

Accept any offer of housing or the council might stop helping.

You can ask for a review if you think the offer is not suitable.

If you're still homeless after 8 weeks

The council writes to tell you if you have a right to longer term housing.

The letter must say why if the council decides you cannot get any more help.

The right to longer term housing is called the 'main housing duty'. It means the council must give you somewhere suitable to live.

You usually have to stay in temporary housing until the council makes a final offer of housing.

Last updated: 9 January 2024

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

Get help