Help if you’re homeless: ex-prisoners

Get help finding somewhere to live if you've left or are about to leave prison.

Contact a Shelter adviser

If you don't have anywhere to go when you're released from prison:

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Our expert advisers will:

Help from the council

You can apply to the council for help if you're homeless now or due to leave prison in the next 8 weeks and don't have anywhere to stay on release.

The council must:

  • carry out an assessment of your housing needs
  • give you a personal housing plan that sets out the steps you and the council must take to find suitable accommodation

They should work with the probation service, community rehabilitation company or youth offending team to decide what support you might need to find and keep somewhere to live.

You can apply to any council for help but it’s usually best to apply to an area where you have a local connection.  Being in prison in an area doesn't count as a local connection.

If you apply to an area where you don't have a connection, you can be referred to an area where you do. You can't be referred to another area if:

  • an injunction means you can't go there
  • you're at risk of violence there

You won't qualify for any housing or support from the council if you don't meet immigration or residence conditions.

Emergency housing 

You should qualify for emergency housing if the council has reason to believe you are homeless and in priority need.

You have an automatic priority need for housing if you:

  • have children who live with you
  • are pregnant or a partner you live with is pregnant
  • are aged 18-20 and spent time in care when you were 16 or 17

You also have a priority need for housing if you're classed as 'vulnerable'. This means it's harder for you to cope with being homeless than other people in the same situation.

You may be classed as vulnerable due to your time spent in prison. The council must consider:

  • any support you get from friends or family
  • your physical and mental health and how it affects you
  • how long you spent in prison and when you were released
  • if you've been able to find or keep accommodation since release

The council should speak to agencies involved in your support and supervision. For example, probation, youth offending team or drug and alcohol services.

Longer-term housing

The council must provide longer-term housing if you meet the 5 conditions for longer-term housing.

The council doesn't have to help with longer-term housing if they decide you are 'intentionally homeless'. This means you lost your home because of something you deliberately did or didn't do.

Examples of when you could be intentionally homeless include if you lost your home because you:

  • were convicted of a serious offence
  • didn't pay rent when you were in prison

If the council says you're intentionally homeless, you may be able to challenge the decision.

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

Help before you leave prison

Most prisons have a housing advice and resettlement service called Through the Gate. The service is delivered by charities including Shelter, St Giles Trust and Catch22.

A resettlement worker in prison can help you with things like:

You can apply for the following grants before release:

  • a £46 discharge grant
  • up to £50 for your first night's accommodation (paid direct to the housing provider)

Help if released on bail or a tag

You need somewhere to stay at before you can be released on bail or an electronic tag.

Court or prison staff may refer you to the Bail Accommodation Support Scheme (BASS) run by the charity NACRO if you have nowhere suitable to live.

Help from the probation service

You're allocated a probation officer in the area you'll be living after release. Your probation officer manages your supervision in the community.

Your resettlement worker in prison works on your resettlement plan with your probation officer.

If you're released on licence, the conditions of your licence might mean you can't live in certain areas.

Probation teams can give you housing advice and may be able to refer you to a specialist hostel, supported housing or private landlords.

Help with housing costs

You probably need to claim universal credit unless you live or move in with a partner who's already claiming housing benefit.

You may also be able to get help through a:

Find out if your council has a local welfare scheme:

Help with private renting

If you have problems finding private housing, you could:

  • offer a bigger deposit or rent in advance if you can
  • look for an independent landlord rather than a letting agent
  • find someone to guarantee they'll pay your rent if you don't 

Find out more from Turn2Us about claiming benefits on release from prison.

Still need help?

  • NACRO (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) 
    0300 123 1999  (9am - 5pm Monday to Friday)
  • Women in Prison
    0800 953 0125 (Women only)

Last updated - 03 Apr 2018

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

Get help

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.