What is homelessness?

You may be homeless if you're sleeping rough, do not 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 do not 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

  • pregnant with nowhere to stay when the baby comes

  • struggling to live on benefits or a low income

  • from abroad without the right to claim benefits

  • leaving prison

How do people become homeless?

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

  • being evicted

  • 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 cannot help but there are children in the family or someone is elderly or frail.

Some charities for homeless people help younger people, people without children and people with drug or alcohol problems. Some provide temporary emergency accommodation such as night shelters or hostels.

A local charity or homeless day centre may be able to help with basics like food and clothing, and other practical support.

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

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