Housing - Homeless

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If you are faced with the prospect of homelessness you can apply to the council's housing department for emergency assistance. The local authority must carefully consider your appeal for help in a timely manner. If they fail to do so, they may be breaching the Homeless Persons Act 2002. If you feel that the local authority has not met its obligations, you have a right to complain to the council

Local councils have specific legal duties towards homeless people

If any person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness approaches the council for help, it has to provide them with advice and assistance.

Some people are also entitled to accommodation from the local council. You are entitled to emergency accommodation if the council believes you fit certain legal criteria. To meet these you must be:

  • legally classed as homeless
  • eligible for assistance
  • in priority need

Each of these terms has a special legal meaning. You are normally entitled to housing and support from your local council if you are aged 16 or 17. In most cases it will be social services that have to take responsibility for finding you somewhere to live. Contact Civil Legal Advice if you are homeless and the council refuses to help you. Their advisers can advise on the council's housing duties. You may be able to get help from their legal advisers if you qualify for legal aid. Be prepared to answer questions about your income and savings so the helpline adviser can tell you if you qualify.

Social services may have a duty to assist you

The social services department of the council may sometimes have duties to help certain groups of people who become homeless. These groups include:

  • most young people under the age of 18 people who have been in care (normally up to age 21 or up to the age of 25 if you are still in full-time education)
  • people with disabilities people with mental health problems
  • older people

Social services may also be able to help you if you have dependent children and the council's housing department has decided that you are:

  • not eligible for assistance, or
  • intentionally homeless

Your right to benefits

You are still entitled to claim benefits if you are homeless. Ask for a Simple Payment card if you don't have a bank account. Your benefits will be paid straight to this card, which you then take to a PayPoint outlet displaying the Simple Payment sign (for example in newsagents, convenience stores and supermarkets) to collect your money.

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