Where to get advice about homelessness

Where to go for help to access services for rough sleepers, apply as homeless to a local authority, or challenge a decision about homelessness duties.

This content applies to England

Help for people sleeping rough

Help for people sleeping rough could include a referral to a night shelter or local support services.

Connect a person to local services

Contact Streetlink to connect an adult sleeping rough to local services that can support them. Streetlink sends the person's details to the local authority or outreach service for the area. 

Contact the police if the person sleeping rough is under the age of 18. 

Homeless Link has a tool to find hostels, night shelters, day centres, and support services.

Hostels and night shelters

Night shelters and direct-access hostels offer basic accommodation on a night by night basis.

The No Accommodation Network has details of night shelters by area.

Day centres and support services

Day centres do not provide overnight accommodation but can help rough sleepers access shelters and hostels. Many offer food, washing facilities, and can signpost to longer-term support.

Crisis has a network of centres across England and Wales. It offers education, training and support with housing, employment and health.

Help for people sleeping outdoors in severe weather

The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is activated when weather conditions mean people sleeping rough are at risk of harm. This can include when the temperature drops below zero for three consecutive nights.

Local authorities usually provide a safe place for rough sleepers to spend the night. This is usually bed and breakfast accommodation.

The protocol is accessible to anyone who needs help. This includes people who do not have recourse to public funds or a priority need.

Contact the local authority for information about SWEP. Gov.uk has a tool to find a local authority for the person's area.

Help if someone is at risk of harm

If the person sleeping rough is in danger or in need of urgent care call 999. 

Specialist services for people facing homelessness

Some services give specialist housing advice and support to groups of people affected by homelessness. For example, young people, older adults, and LGBTQ+ people.

Young people

Centrepoint provides advice to people aged 16-24 facing homelessness. It provides accommodation, health support and life skills. Young people or anyone looking for advice to help a young person can use their phone or webchat service.

Barnardo's helps young people find a safe place to live and supports them in their tenancy.

Homeless Link has information about services for young people facing homelessness.

Contact the local authority social care team about a young person under 18 who is homeless. Social services have an ongoing general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of 'children in need' in their area. This duty can include providing accommodation.

Read more about young people and care leavers' housing rights on Shelter Legal.

Older adults

Age UK provides advice to people aged over 55 who are facing homelessness.

The Elderly Accommodation Counsel has a directory of housing and care services for older people.

Find out more about housing options for people with care and support needs on Shelter Legal.

People at risk of domestic abuse

Refuges provide emergency accommodation and specialist support to people who are homeless because they have fled domestic abuse.

Refuge's free 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline can help someone find a refuge space and advise on other options.

Find a local refuge on Women's Aid directory.

The House of Commons Library has a list of contact details for organisations that give advice and support to people experiencing domestic abuse and domestic violence across the UK.

Independent advocacy

An Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) is a specialist professional who works with survivors of domestic abuse. They can identify the survivor's support needs and the risk of abuse. The IDVA can help the survivor access local authority services and advocate for them.

Find out more about the housing rights of domestic abuse survivors on Shelter Legal.

LGBTQ+ people

Stonewall housing supports LGBTQ+ people who are homeless, facing homelessness, or living in an unsafe home. All services are free and confidential. A person-can self refer or someone supporting them can make a referral.

AKT supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 who are experiencing homelessness or living a hostel or abusive situation. AKT has services in London, Manchester, Bristol and Newcastle, and a nationwide live chat. A young person or someone supporting them can make an online referral to AKT on their website.

Veterans

Veterans Gateway provides information and support for veterans with homelessness and housing issues, and can be contacted 24 hours a day by phone, chat, email and text.

Advice for people applying as homeless

Anyone can apply as homeless to a local authority. The authority must provide some help to find accommodation if the person is eligible based on their immigration status. It might have a duty to provide accommodation, for example if the person has children or is vulnerable.

Online advice

Shelter's online housing advice includes a guide to homeless help from the local authority, and information about who the local authority must help.  It includes a tool to find the contact details for the person's local authority homelessness team.

Phone, webchat and face to face advice

People who are homeless or at risk of harm can contact Shelter's helpline.

A local Citizens Advice office, law centre, or other advice agency might be able to help someone to make a homeless application, including gathering any evidence they need to show the local authority.  

Search for a local Citizens Advice office.

Find a local law centre on the Law Centres Network.

Turn2Us has an advice finder tool.

Advice and representation to challenge a decision

A person can get help to challenge a local authority's decision if it decides they are not entitled to help. They must ask for a review of the decision within 21 days.

Some decisions must be challenged through the courts. The homeless person can get advice and representation from a solicitor or specialist adviser.

Help to challenge a decision in a homelessness application is in scope for legal aid.

Read more about legal aid for housing problems on Shelter Legal.

Find help to challenge a decision

Shelter's emergency helpline can help people challenge a homelessness decision. They could refer the person to a local Shelter service for advice, or provide a telephone casework service. Find a local Shelter service.

Law centres have a housing casework service for people who are eligible for legal aid. The Law Centres Network has details of local centres.  

Some private solicitors firms can take on homelessness challenges under legal aid. Gov.uk has a tool to find a legal aid solicitor.

People from abroad who cannot get help

Some people are not eligible for homelessness help from their local authority because of their immigration status. They could get advice from a specialist organisation, or housing assistance through a different route.

Find out what options are available for people who are not eligible for homelessness assistance with the Homeless rights checker on Shelter Legal.

Non-UK nationals with uncertain immigration status

The government Homelessness Escalation Service (HES) can help non-UK nationals who qualify for public funding on the basis of their immigration status but are unable to prove it.

HES provides information on immigration status and an escalation service so that non-UK nationals sleeping rough, homeless or at risk of homelessness can access services and support to which they are entitled.

EEA and EU Nationals

The AIRE Centre provides free legal advice and representation, particularly to EEA nationals and their family members. It can represent them in tribunals on their right to reside, and access to benefits, healthcare, and housing.

People with care needs

People with care needs could be housed under the Care Act even if they would not normally be eligible for homelessness assistance.

Contact the local authority social care department and ask who provides Care Act advocacy for the area.

Families with children

People with children could be housed under the Children Act even if they would not normally be eligible for homelessness assistance.

Contact the local authority social care department to speak to a social worker.

Gov.uk has a tool to find a local authority for the person's area.

Last updated: 11 July 2023