Homelessness

Means not having a home. Some people have no roof over their head and sleep on the street, in doorways or on night buses. But much more homelessness is hidden – on a friend's sofa or spare room, or in squats.

Even if you have a roof over your head you can still be homeless, if you don't have any rights to stay where you live or your home is unsuitable due to severe overcrowding or other reasons.

You might be entitled to help as a homeless person if you are:

You may also be considered to be homeless if you are:

  • living somewhere where you have no legal right to stay, such as in a squat
  • living somewhere that you can't afford to pay for without depriving yourself of basic essentials
  • forced to live apart from your family or someone you would normally live with because your accommodation isn't suitable.

Who is affected by homelessness?

Homelessness affects a wide variety of people. You may be more vulnerable to homelessness because you have particular needs, are less able to cope by yourself or have limited housing rights, for example if you are:

  • a young person leaving home for the first time or leaving care
  • an offender leaving prison
  • pregnant, with nowhere to stay when the baby comes
  • responsible for bringing up children
  • living on benefits or a low income
  • affected by housing benefit cuts
  • an asylum seeker, refugee or person from abroad.

Why are people homeless?

You could become homeless for many different reasons. These could include:

  • being evicted because of rent arrears caused by money problems
  • the breakdown of your relationship with your partner, parents or family
  • having to leave because of domestic violence or abuse
  • illegal eviction or harassment by a landlord
  • a disaster such as a fire or flooding.

Who helps homeless people?

You may be able to get help from a local council if you are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Local councils have a legal duty to help some people, but not everyone gets help with housing. Some people will only be able to get help with advice on finding a home.

Social services at a local council may help some people if the housing department of a council can't or won't help. This may happen if a council decides a family is intentionally homeless or a person is disabled or frail.

You can use Shelter's emergency housing rights checker to find out if you are entitled to help and what help you might get.

Some charities for the homeless may be able to help if you are single (or a couple without children), or a young person. Some provide temporary emergency accommodation such as nightshelters or hostels, or practical help in daycentres. Increasingly, charities are stepping in to help with basics like food and clothing through foodbanks, soup kitchens and soup runs.

You can find out more about the agencies that help homeless people with advice, practical support and emergency accommodation using the Homeless UK website.

Get advice if you are homeless or at risk

If you are homeless or worried about becoming homeless, you should get advice as quickly as you can. An adviser might be able to help you find a way to stay in your home, find a new home more quickly, or to get help from your local council.

You can get advice from a Shelter advice centre, Shelter's free national helpline, your local council or a local advice agency such as Citizens Advice

National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

National Family Mediation (NFM) services charge £25-£100 for a MIAM, depending on geographical locality, which may include the fee for the completed FM1 form. Meetings usually last for 45 minutes – 1 hour. This includes the means assessment to check whether you will be eligible for Legal Aid, determining whether your mediation will be free or not. Mediation sessions which follow the initial MIAM are charged at a sliding scale according to income, but start at around £80 per session, and usually last up to 1½ hours.

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.

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