Date last updated: 18 February 2022


If you’re homeless, or threatened with homelessness, go to your local council’s Homeless Persons Unit to make a homeless application. If there’s a possibility that you might be able to stay in your current home, you can ask the local council to provide you with practical and legal advice on how to do this.

If you need to contact the Homeless Persons Unit during the evening, at weekends or in an emergency, call your local council’s main switchboard which should provide you with a number for emergencies. If you have nowhere to stay, you should be offered emergency accommodation.

Wherever possible, it’s better to approach the council before an emergency. If you’re experiencing difficulties or are thinking about making a homeless application, it’s a good idea to get advice first.

You can find a list of useful organisations that provide free, independent advice at the bottom of this page.

How does the council decide the help I’m entitled to?

The council’s Homeless Persons Unit will carry out five tests to decide what help you are entitled to.

1. Are you eligible for assistance?

The following groups of people are not usually eligible:

  • most people who are subject to immigration control, and
  • those who are not habitually resident in the UK (those who do not intend to remain in and settle in the UK for a period of time)

If you’re an EU national and have lived in the UK for less than five years you should check your eligibility for housing from the local council.

Shelter offers useful advice on homeless through their website.

2. Are you homeless, or will you be made homeless within the next 56 days?

This definition of homelessness can include being unable to afford your current accommodation, or being asked to leave a friend or relatives’ home where you were staying . If you have been subjected to or are at risk of violence, or would be if you returned home, you should be considered homeless.

3. Do you have a priority need?

As a single parent responsible for dependent children, or if you are pregnant, you should be classed as ‘in priority need’.

4. Are you ‘intentionally homeless’?

You’ll need to show that you did not deliberately do something, or fail to do something which caused you to lose your home. You should not be classed as intentionally homeless if you left your home because you experienced or were threatened with violence. Also, having to leave your home due to circumstances beyond your control can include financial problems caused by the end of a relationship or a job loss – this is not intentional homelessness either.

This test can be complicated, so get specialist independent advice from one of the organisations listed below.

5. Do you have a connection to the local area?

You will usually be considered to have a local connection if you have lived in the area for a total of six out of the last 12 months or three out of the last five years, or have employment or family links to the area.

You can also show a connection to the local area if you need to live there for specialist medical treatment, or if you have previously lived in the area for a long time. It’s important to get specialist advice if you need help in showing that you have a connection to a particular area. See our useful organisations section below, especially Shelter and Citizens Advice.

If you do not have a connection to the local area, the local council might not accept responsibility to provide long-term accommodation for you. You can be referred to another council area where you do have a connection, unless returning to this area would put you at risk of violence.

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Our Helpline provides free, confidential advice for single parents. No matter the challenge – around your finances, contact arrangements or help you could receive – our trained advisers are here with tailored advice that works for you.

Our partner organisation, One Parent Families Scotland, provides a similar service through their Lone Parent Helpline.

Get support

Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline

Freephone 0808 802 0925

One Parent Families Scotland

Freephone 0808 801 0323

What will the council do if I’m entitled to help?

If you’re a single parent with dependent children or a pregnant woman, the council has a duty to provide you with temporary (interim) accommodation if they find you to be homeless. The council will then decide whether they have to provide you with long term (settled) accommodation.

If the local council decides that you qualify for help, they must provide you with somewhere to live until settled accommodation has been arranged for you. Any settled accommodation that you are offered should be suitable for your needs.

Find out what the allocation process is before you accept or reject an offer. If you are unsure, seek advice before you make a decision, especially through Shelter and Citizens Advice.

What if the council say that I’m not homeless?

If the local council has housed you in temporary accommodation but later decides that you’re not entitled to long term accommodation, you should be allowed to remain in temporary accommodation for around 28 days while you find somewhere to live.

The council should still provide you with advice on finding somewhere to live, including information about private sector housing.

If your homeless application is refused

Every local council must publish its housing application and allocation policy so that people know how their application will be treated.

If your homeless application is refused, you must be given reasons for the decision in writing and you have the right to ask for a review of the decision.

Seek advice immediately – especially through Shelter and Citizens Advice.

Useful organisations

There are a number of organisations which can provide further information and advice on the topic of homelessness, and may also offer specialist services if you have issues regarding housing.

Citizens Advice

England: 03444 111 444
Wales: 03444 77 20 20
Text relay users: 03444 111 445

Information and advice on a wide range of issues including benefits and tax credits, housing and family law.

Civil Legal Advice

Civil Legal Advice
0845 345 4345

Check your eligibility for legal aid if you need legal help with a housing issue.



Visit the Crisis website to find out further information on emergency accommodation.

You can also search for schemes in your area which can help with a deposit for rented accommodation.

Jobcentre Plus

Telephone: 0800 055 6688
Textphone: 0800 023 4888

Access the Jobcentre Plus website to make a new claim for benefits.

Law Centres Federation


Law Centres are charities offering free legal advice on social welfare law, usually including housing. Find your local law centre on the website or see their listing in the telephone directory.

National Homelessness Advice Service


Free online factsheets on a wide range of housing subjects, including problems with  landlords, homelessness, applying for housing, rent, benefits and money and eviction.

Refugee Council

0808 808 2255

The Refugee Council provides advice and assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. Also works to support  unaccompanied refugee children. See website for details of local centres.


0808 800 4444

Shelter provides information and advice on a range of housing issues and a signposting service for further help and advice.

Stonewall Housing

020 7359 5767

Advice and information for the lesbian, gay and bisexual community on homelessness, housing options, harassment and finding accommodation.


Shelter helps millions of people every year who struggle with bad housing or homelessness through advice, support and legal services. They also campaign to improve living standards across the country.

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