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:
leaving home for the first time or leaving care
struggling to live on benefits or a low income
from abroad without the right to claim benefits
How do people become homeless?
You could become homeless for many different reasons. These could include:
splitting up with your partner
family or friends asking you to leave
domestic violence or abuse
harassment by neighbours
a disaster such as a fire or flooding
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: 3 April 2018