This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Advice in emergencies

This content applies to England

There are key points that an adviser must cover when contacted by someone with an emergency housing problem.

Key points for advisers

The key points are as follows:

  • the adviser should find out whether the client is in any immediate danger
  • the adviser should find out if the client has any rights to stay in - or return to - her/his present accommodation, and whether s/he wants to do so
  • if the client does not want - or has no rights - to stay, the adviser should review whether the client may be entitled to assistance from the local authority
  • the adviser should discuss all the other possible, immediate emergency housing options with the client. This would take into account the affordability of the accommodation and what - if any - security of tenure the client would have
  • as a last resort, and only if the adviser finds that there is no possibility of finding emergency accommodation, the adviser could give practical advice about sleeping out, together with information about resources available to street homeless people, such as day centres
  • the adviser should ensure that the client is made aware of more secure, longer-term options, and knows where to go to get further help. Sometimes it may be necessary for clients to return for advice at a later date, for information on longer-term options.

The rest of this section looks at each of these areas and provides details of the options available in each case.

Advising clients who may be in immediate danger

When giving advice to people who are homeless, particularly those who are making contact by telephone, it is crucial to check first that they are not in immediate danger.

People telephoning from call boxes or who are facing violence may need to go to a safe place before the adviser can spend time with them exploring their housing options. Therefore, as early as possible during the call, the adviser should find out where the client is calling from and if s/he is safe. If there is immediate danger, then the client could be advised to go to friends or family, a local advice agency, the local authority or a police station. This will depend on the circumstances and what resources exist in the area.

In extreme situations it might even be necessary for the adviser to call the emergency services on the client's behalf, for example asking the police or ambulance service to attend the scene.

Find details of local authorities on Gov.uk.

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