Help if you’re homeless: ex-prisoners

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

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)

You can also apply to the council for help if you are due to leave prison in the next 8 weeks and don't have anywhere to stay.

Help from the council

You're more likely to get help from the council if you apply to an area where you have a local connection.  Being in prison in an area doesn't count as a local connection.

The council must:

  • carry out an assessment of your housing needs
  • give you a personal housing plan

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

Emergency housing

The council must provide emergency housing if they think you're homeless, in priority need and meet the immigration conditions.

You have a priority need 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.

Time spent in prison can make you vulnerable.

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.

You have an automatic priority need if you:

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

Find out how to apply for emergency housing

Longer-term housing

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

They don't have to help 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.

Help from the probation service

Your resettlement worker and probation worker will make a resettlement plan for you.

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

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

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:

Turn2Us have more information about claiming benefits on release from prison.

Help if released on bail or a tag

You need somewhere to stay 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.

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 - 20 November 2020

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