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Homeless and sofa surfing

Sofa surfing means you have nowhere to live. You just stay with different people when they can put you up.

Find out about:

How to ask a council for help

You can ask a council for help if you're sofa surfing.

Use our letter template to ask for homeless help.

Tell the council that you want to make a homeless application.

Tell them if you are staying in different places each night or every few days.

Make sure they know if you feel unsafe where you stay.

Keep trying if the council does not answer you. Councils are very busy.

Emergency housing

The council must give you emergency housing if you have a priority need.

For example, if you are:

  • at risk of domestic abuse

  • pregnant

  • a care leaver under 21

You could also have a priority need if you have a health condition or disability, or if something else makes you vulnerable.

Find out more about emergency housing from the council.

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What the council should do next

The council must look into your situation and write a personal housing plan with you.

The plan should focus on finding you somewhere to live for at least 6 months.

Some councils can help with money for a tenancy deposit or rent in advance.

Ask your council if they can help if you find a place to rent.

You should be able to join the housing register. You must get some priority on the waiting list if you're homeless.

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If the council say they cannot help

The council must help as long as you meet immigration conditions.

They cannot refuse to help you if you do not have links to the local area.

Sometimes, the council says you must get documents such as bank statements or proof of address before they can talk to you.

The council is wrong if it says these things. Find out what to do if the council will not help.

If the council give you a letter

Ask for a review if the council say you're not homeless or they cannot help.

Find out if you can get free legal help.

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Getting universal credit without an address

You can claim universal credit (UC) even if you do not have a permanent address.

You need to use a ‘care of’ address on the online claim form.

Talk to a Help to Claim adviser at Citizens Advice before you apply. Call 0800 144 8 444 or use their online chat service

If you find somewhere to rent, your UC will go up to help with the rent.

You may need to claim housing benefit if you move into a hostel or supported housing.

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Find a hostel or supported housing

Use the Homeless Link database to look for hostels and supported housing in your area.

Search for 'accommodation' under service types.

The database tells you how to get a referral and about the support that places give.

Other services that could help

Use the Homeless Link database to search for services like day centres and advice centres.

You can filter your search by support offered.

For example, you can search for services for:

  • young people

  • LGBTQ+

  • migrants and refugees

  • people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)

  • people with mental health issues

  • people with alcohol or drug dependency issues

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Last updated: 5 July 2023

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