Homelessness and emergency housing for older people | ͵͵


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Homelessness doesn't just mean rough sleeping. It could be that you aren't staying in your own home or it isn't safe for you to stay where you are anymore. If this applies or may apply to you soon, it's important to seek help and advice as soon as possible.

What does homelessness mean?

You're homeless if you have nowhere to stay, but you're also considered homeless if it's not reasonable for you to remain in your accommodation. That might mean:

  • you're staying with friends or family on a temporary basis
  • your home is in a very poor condition
  • your home is no longer suitable for you because of a disability or illness.

Homelessness is often caused by a tenancy ending, a relationship breakdown, or family or friends asking you to leave.

Whatever the cause, it's best to seek advice as soon as you can.

Will my local council help me if I'm facing homelessness?

If you're homeless or at risk of homelessness, your local council may have a duty to help you. Legally, you're considered at risk of homelessness if it's likely you'll be made homeless within 56 days.

To get help, your local council must agree that you're homeless or at risk of homelessness and you must also be considered 'eligible for assistance'. You're eligible if you're a British citizen, but not if you've recently returned from being abroad for a long time.

You shouldn't leave a property or terminate a tenancy without first seeking advice, as this could impact how much help you may be able to get from the council. If you approach the local council for help, they may be able to offer some initial assistance to you to help prevent or relieve homelessness. If they've been helping you for 8 weeks, without success, have looked into your case and decide you have made yourself 'intentionally homeless', then they may stop helping you at that point. 

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What sort of help could I get?

If you meet the requirements the council will help you for around 56 days. It's important to bear in mind that the help you get will depend on your circumstances and needs, but may include:

  • attempting mediation if your family has asked you to leave
  • if you're in rent arrears, assessing whether you might be entitled to a
  • providing financial or other support to help you secure private rented accommodation
  • making you an offer of housing, although this may be in the private rented sector
  • providing sanctuary or other measures if you're at risk of violence or abuse and wish to stay safely in your home
  • helping you to secure or securing an immediate safe place for you to stay if you're sleeping rough or at high risk of sleeping rough.

You're likely to have to do some things too, for example attend property viewings or put in an application for social housing. The council may stop helping you if you refuse to do this. If you're in this position, or if you don't agree with the council’s plan for helping you, then speak to an advisor.

How do I apply for help?

If you’re homeless or threatened with homelessness and want help from the local council, contact them and say you need to make a homelessness application. Your council should be able to provide you with advice and assistance at any time.

If the council has ‘reason to believe’ you may be homeless or at risk of homelessness, they must assess whether you’re eligible for assistance. If they decide you're eligible, they then have to determine whether they have a duty to help you.

When you first contact your local council, explain why you’re homeless or threatened with homelessness. If you need a place to stay while the council looks into your case, you should also explain how you meet the ‘test’ of being eligible for assistance and why you should be considered a priority case.

Local councils must provide emergency accommodation if they have ‘reason to believe' someone is homeless, eligible and in ‘priority need’, which includes people who are vulnerable as a result of their age or other circumstances.

How do I prepare for the interview?

If you bring these documents to the initial interview, it's more likely that the application process will be quicker and more successful:

  • proof of identity and immigration status for all household members, e.g. birth certificates, passports, residence permits
  • evidence of where you live or were living, e.g. your tenancy or licence agreement, utility or Council Tax bills in your name, a letter from an official source addressed to you or saying where you've been living
  • evidence of why you’re homeless or threatened with homelessness, e.g. a letter from your landlord, mortgage lender, or the court, or a letter from friends or family saying they want you to leave
  • proof of income, e.g. benefit letters and wage slips
  • letters from professionals involved in your care, e.g. doctor or social worker setting out your care and support needs or a domestic violence advocate
  • crime reference numbers and copies of police reports.

Do I qualify for temporary accommodation (emergency housing)?

The local council must offer you temporary accommodation (also referred to as emergency housing) while they look into your case if they think you're:

  • homeless now
  • have a priority need for housing
  • meet immigration and residence conditions.

This is likely to be in a hostel or bed and breakfast with shared facilities. The local council must try to find accommodation as close as possible to where you were previously living, but in areas without much affordable housing you may find you're given an offer somewhere else. If this isn't suitable for you then it's best to speak to an advisor. 

You'll have to pay rent in these types of accommodation, but if you're on a low income then you can usually claim Housing Benefit.

You can usually stay in emergency housing until your council decides if you’re entitled to longer-term help. However, if you're pregnant or have children then it's unlawful for a council to keep you in emergency accommodation for more than six weeks.

What can I do if I'm worried about someone else?

If you’re worried that someone you know is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, encourage them to seek advice as soon as possible. 

Find out more about how to approach difficult conversations like these

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Last updated: Jun 21 2024

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