What is homelessness?

You may be homeless if you're sleeping rough, don't have rights to stay where you are or you live in unsuitable housing.

When are you homeless?

The definition of homelessness means not having a home. You are homeless if you have nowhere to stay and are living on the streets, but you can be homeless even if you have a roof over your head.

You count as homeless if you are:

  • staying with friends or family
  • staying in a hostel, night shelter or B&B
  • squatting (because you have no legal right to stay)
  • at risk of violence or abuse in your home
  • living in poor conditions that affect your health
  • living apart from your family because you don't have a place to live together

Who is affected?

Homelessness affects a wide variety of people. Some people may be more vulnerable to homelessness.

You may be more at risk if you are:

How do people become homeless?

You could become homeless for many different reasons. These could include:

Who can help if you are homeless?

You can ask for help from a local council if you are homeless or threatened with homelessness within the next 8 weeks.

Local councils have a legal duty to help some people. Not everyone gets help with housing, some people just get advice on how to find a home.

Usually it's the housing department that helps, but sometimes social services helps instead. This may happen if the housing department can't help but there are children in the family or someone is elderly or frail.

Some charities for the homeless may help young people, people who don't have children and people with drug or alcohol problems. Some provide temporary emergency accommodation such as night-shelters or hostels.

A local church or charity may also be able to help with basics like food and clothing. Practical help is provided by day centres for homeless people, food banks and soup runs.

Get advice if you are homeless or at risk

Get advice as soon as possible if you are homeless or worried about becoming homeless.

A housing adviser might be able to help you to:

  • find a way to stay in your home
  • find a new home more quickly
  • get help from your local council

You can get advice from Shelter, your local Citizen's Advice or law centre.


Last updated - 03 Apr 2018

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

Get help

Tell us what you think of this page

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.