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Local councils have a responsibility to provide temporary accommodation and help find long-term accommodation for some people who are homeless if they apply for help.
- have a local connection with the council’s area (such as work, previous residence or family members living there)
- no connection with any area.
Note that in Wales, some councils may not apply the ‘intentionally homeless’ test.
For those who ‘fail’ these tests, there may be some other help offered. For example:
- councils have to ensure that housing advice is available free of charge to anyone in their district who needs it, whether they are eligible, in priority need, intentionally homeless or not
- people who are not in priority need can still get some priority on the housing register
- people judged to be intentionally homeless must be offered a limited period in temporary accommodation
- people who have a local connection with another council’s area will be referred to that area for further help.
Applications for homelessness help can be made to any council in England and Wales.
If the council has reason to believe that the applicant may be eligible, homeless and in priority need, they have to provide emergency accommodation while they investigate the case further.
If the case is an emergency, they will make arrangements to provide accommodation overnight or at weekends until offices open again to take the application. In an emergency, this service can be found by:
- phoning the council’s central number
- contacting the local police
- in England,contacting Shelter’s free advice helpline – 0808 800 4444 (open 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday and 8 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday)
- in Wales, contacting Shelter Cymru on 0845 075 5005.
In most cases people wanting help from the council will need to provide evidence of identity of all in the household, of their immigration status and of where they have lived before.
- A right to reside can be gained by EEA workers and self-employed people.
- In some cases, people who are temporarily unable to work are also eligible: see EEA workers and self-employed people and Bulgarians, Romanians and Croatians.
- Other EEA nationals who are studying or self-sufficient may also be eligible in some circumstances but will have to pass the habitual residence test.
- Family members of eligible EEA nationals are usually eligible, even when they are not themselves EEA nationals.
- Some rights to reside, such as those for people looking for work who have never worked, or who have previously left the labour market, do not make people eligible.
Citizens of countries from outside the EEA are generally subject to immigration control and need permission to enter or remain in the UK. The eligibility rules for England say that only some people subject to immigration control are eligible:
- Refugees, people with discretionary leave, humanitarian protection or exceptional leave following an application for asylum, and people brought to the UK on the special settlement programme for Afghan interpreters are eligible provided their leave does not include a public funds restriction.
- People with indefinite leave to remain are eligible (with some exceptions) but have to pass the habitual residence test.
- Generally, people with other forms of limited leave to remain are not eligible.
Most other people from outside Europe are not eligible for housing and homelessness help. Social services departments may be able to help some people (e.g. people with social care needs) get accommodation in emergencies. There are also special services for people fleeing domestic violence. There may also be some help available from charities for people who are homeless and destitute.